ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis has dismissed a question about whether condoms can be condoned in the fight against AIDS by saying there are more important issues confronting the world, like malnutrition, environmental exploitation and the lack of safe drinking water.

Francis was asked about the church's opposition to condoms while returning Monday to Rome from Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. Africa in general and Kenya and Uganda in particular have been hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic, and the Catholic Church has faced criticism that its position has contributed to the problem.

Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, earned the wrath of health care professionals, gay rights activists and the U.N. by saying on a visit to Africa that condoms weren't the answer to fighting HIV and can actually make it worse.