Pope Francis has praised church workers in Africa who promote chastity as a key way to prevent the spread of HIV.

The Roman Catholic leader was speaking yesterday at the Vatican to bishops from Tanzania.

The Vatican opposes condom use because Catholic doctrine forbids contraception.

AFP reports Pope Francis praised church health care workers in Africa who care for those with HIV/AIDS and “all who strive diligently to educate people in the area of sexual responsibility and chastity.”

“By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service of one another within families, the Church continues to make an invaluable contribution to the social welfare of Tanzania,” he said.

His predecessor Benedict XVI was heavily criticised for saying during a trip to Africa that the distribution of condoms “aggravates” the HIV epidemic.

Last month, Pope Francis stated that “matrimony is between a man and a woman” but hinted that he could eventually accept the principle of civil partnerships.