Many Edmontonians who took part in Sunday mass said they support Pope Benedict XVI's sanction of condom use in exceptional circumstances, even though Vatican officials say the Church still forbids the use of contraceptives.

In a book called Light of the World, to be released Tuesday, the Pontiff maintains that condoms used to lessen the danger of infection are a "first assumption of responsibility."

The Pope clarified his stance in an interview with a German journalist, saying that in certain cases, such as for male prostitutes, the protection could be a first step in taking moral responsibility for stemming the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.

Church officials insist this is not a fundamental shift. They say their allegiance to abstinence and fidelity is still paramount to their faith.

"The Church's ban on contraception remains. What [the Pope] is talking about is the use of a condom, which is basically not contraceptive," said Roman Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh.

"It's for medical purposes. The purpose is to prevent infection."

Joey Verissimo, a practicing Catholic, says he finds the Church's stance difficult to follow, but wholeheartedly agrees in the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.

"It's a lot of back of forth and it's really confusing actually, when you really get down to it," he said of the conflicting messages.

"I support it either way - doesn't really matter what the Pope says."

Others attending service at St. Joseph's Basilica say the also support the measure because of health reasons.

"I would never deny it in safety and I would find it hard to accept the Pope not believing in it for safety issues," said Dianna Rudanec.

The Roman Catholic Church instituted a total ban on the use of condoms back in 1968 and some believe the Pope's comments have the power to effect change, particularly in parts of the world that need it most.

"As someone that has worked in Africa for a few years I do know that the Catholic Church's stance on condoms really does influence people's behaviour," said Father James Martin with American Magazine.

With Files from Sean Amato and The Associated Press