Tutu critical of rise of US evangelism

In Dublin, South African anti-apartheid icon Bishop Desmond Tutu speaks out against religious fundamentalism, calls for ordination of women priests 'across all denominations'.

What is your opinion of the rise of evangelicism in the United States?

This is a phenomenon you find happening in quite a few religions – Islam, for instance, where there are those who have become fundamentalist. I think that Christians have to deal with the so-called right wing in their own particular denominations.

So you wouldn't view it as a particularly good thing?

(Stunned silence, stares in disbelief)

How could I possibly think it is a good thing? It isn't! (laughs)

The ordination of women priests

I believe in women. I think they are God's best invention. We discovered how impoverished we were in our Anglican church in South Africa in all the time that we did not ordain women to the priesthood. And now we realise how much we had lost when we did ordain them, and the enrichment we now have had is wonderful. Now we hope it happens in all denominations to discover that women have gifts that men do not have, as men have gifts that women do not have. But in order to have a whole, you need both. That is why God said to Adam, "It is not good for man to be alone."

On the fact that there are virtually no African artists performing in the forthcoming Live 8

If the concert is to be a commemoration of the Live Aid concert, then it is understandable. But I myself would like to see more African artists performing in it.

On Pope Benedict XVI

I have said that we have to take account of the role of the holy spirit. Some of the things that he has said since becoming Pope give hope. He said he wanted to continue the ecumenical initiatives of his predecessor. He would want to be able to continue the dialogues of people different faiths. But as I was saying, the jury is very much out. I believe very fervently in god the holy spirit.

The use of contraception as a method of fighting AIDS – do you approve?

(Laughs for thirty seconds) Those who work in this area will tell you that unprotected sex is a death warrant. And the way it seems to me is that we need to be realistic and say we want to use all available tools – as it were – to combat this horrendous pandemic. It would be so wonderful if everybody would abstain, but we know that there would be very, very many who don't. And therefore, you have to take that into account. And the fact of the matter is, if there are two evils before you, then you will use the lesser evil.

John Byrne

Bishop Desmond Tutu was in Dublin to speak at the University Philosophical society in Trinity College and also for the human rights organisation Afri, for whom he is international patron