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Monday, November 21, 2005


VATICAN CITY, NOV 19, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received participants in the 20th international conference promoted by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. This year the conference - which is being held in the Vatican from November 17 to 19 - is considering the subject of the human genome.

  In his address, the Pope affirmed that the Church has the possibility of illuminating consciences so that scientific discoveries "may serve for the integral good of the person, in constant respect for his or her dignity."

  "Believers," said the Pope, "well know that the Gospel is in intrinsic harmony with the values inscribed in human nature. The image of God is so strongly impressed on man's soul that it difficult for the voice of conscience to be completely silenced. ... Even people who no longer recognize themselves as members of the Church, or who have lost the light of faith, remain attentive to human values and to the positive contribution the Gospel can make to individual and social good."

  Benedict XVI went on to highlight the fact that people of our time "are capable of understanding that the dignity of man is not identified with the genes of his DNA, and does not diminish in the presence of any physical diversity or genetic defects. The principle of 'non discrimination' on the basis of physical or genetic factors has entered profoundly into people's consciences and is formally expressed in the Charter of Human Rights. This principle has its most authentic roots in the dignity intrinsic to each human being by the fact of having been created in the image and likeness of God." An analysis of scientific data reveals the dignity of human life "from the first moment of fecundation," he added.

  After pointing out how the Church "announces and presents this truth, not only with the authority of the Gospel but also with the strength deriving from reason," the Holy Father affirmed: "It is necessary to guard against the risks of a science and technology that seek complete autonomy from the moral norms written into human nature."

  The Pope then went on to mention the need "of giving fresh impulse to pastoral health care ministry" through "a renewal and a deepening of pastoral activity itself, bearing in mind the increased awareness spread by the media in society, and the higher level of education of the people to whom it is addressed.

  "We cannot ignore the fact that, ever more frequently, not only legislators but citizens themselves are called to express their view on complex scientific problems. If adequate education - or indeed an adequate formation of consciences - is lacking, false values and misleading information may easily prevail in orienting public opinion."

  Benedict XVI concluded by making reference to the applications of genetic engineering, which requires , he said, "a thorough and limpid formation of consciences. Modern scientific discoveries affect the lives of families, involving them in unforeseen and delicate choices which must be faced responsibly." In this context, he stressed that pastoral health care ministry "needs well trained and competent professionals."
AC/HUMAN GENOME/...                            VIS 20051121 (530)

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