The Pope has signalled an end to the Catholic Church’s policy of opposing all condom use – but only to tackle the Zika virus.

The Catholic Church has long maintained that any form of protected sex is a violation of the sanctity of life, with Catholic priests teaching that condoms are “evil”.

In the past, researchers have linked the church’s no-condom policy to the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in areas where ‘misconceptions’ about condoms have been spread.

However, the Pope today signalled that Church would finally make an exception to its decades-long stance… for the Zika virus.

An outbreak of the Zika virus has been spreading from Brazil, across other countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Zika is usually transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes – but can also be sexually transmitted.

The Pope was asked whether the Church still sees condoms as “evil” in relation to the virus on a plane home from Mexico.

He told journalists: “Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.

“In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.

“I would also ask doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.”

Critics say his statements demonstrate a clear contradiction to an answer he gave just last year, when asked about using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.

Pope Francis said at the time that both condoms and HIV were “morally complicated for the Church,” claiming: “The question seems too small to me, it also seems like a partial question.”

He said: “I don’t like getting into questions or reflections that are so technical when people die because they don’t have water or food or housing.”

The previous Pope, Benedict XVI, claimed in 2009 that condoms would make the AIDS crisis worse – a fabrication often parroted by Catholic groups opposed to their use.

He claimed it would be “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

The Catholic Church continues to officially encourage sexual abstinence and monogamy as the only way of ‘combating’ HIV/AIDS.