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Friday, February 24, 2006


VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Alfred Moisiu, president of the Republic of Albania, accompanied by an entourage.

 - Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio.

 - Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte O.F.M., of Trujillo, Peru.

 - Brother Enzo Bianchi, prior of Bose.

This evening he is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2006 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a conference took place to present an international congress on "the human embryo prior to implantation, scientific aspects and bioethical considerations." The congress, which is being held to mark the 12th general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, is due to take place in the Vatican's New Synod Hall on February 27 and 28.

  Participating in today's press conference were Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Adriano Bompiani, gynecologist and director of the International Scientific Institute of Rome's Sacred Heart Catholic University; Fr. Kevin T. Fitzgerald, associate professor of genetics at the oncological department of Georgetown University, Washington, U.S.A.; and Bishop Willem Jacobus Eijk of Groningen, Netherlands, moral theologian, expert on bioethics and doctor.

  "In order to attribute a 'juridical status' to the embryo," said Adriano Bompiani, "it is necessary to 'understand' its nature." And such understanding, he added, must be based on ontological study.

  "Today, it is not enough to examine the embryo under the microscope," he went on. Rather, it is necessary "to use all available means" from the fields of genetics, morphology, biochemistry and molecular biology.

  In "recognizing" the embryo, Bompiani continued, "we come up against the concepts of human life, human being, human individual, and person. Reflection on these concepts is, obviously, the aim of ontological study. However, in my opinion, this should be undertaken only after having described and understood what happens in the few hours following the encounter between a living human ovum and a spermatozoon." From a rational standpoint, he concluded, the origin of a new human being lies "in the meeting between a spermatozoon and an ovum of the same species."

  For his part, Bishop Willem Jacobus Eijk spoke of the extrinsic and intrinsic criteria for attributing a moral status to the human embryo, recalling how in the second half of the 1960s "the idea arose that the status of the human being and the personality of an individual emerge at the moment of nidation, because this implicates the beginning of a close relationship with the mother." However, the bishop went on, "such a relationship already comes about in the fusion of the spermatozoon and the ovum as the fruit of a sexual relationship between the parents. Moreover, even before implantation, the embryo receives the necessary nutrients and oxygen for growth from the mother."

  Another extrinsic criterion holds that "the embryo becomes a human individual when recognized as such by positive law. In our pluralistic society, the only possible solution to the controversy over the status of the human embryo is, according to many people, that such status be defined by democratic consensus. However, the truth, even that regarding the status of the embryo, cannot be established by a statistical survey."

  Bishop Eijk went on: "A third extrinsic criterion makes the status of the embryo depend on the choice of others to give the embryo created by 'in vitro' fertilization the possibility of further development," transplanting it to the uterus. "The problem is that the status of the embryo, understood in this way, ... depends on the choice of others, especially researchers and parents."

  Given that extrinsic criteria "are inadequate for establishing the moral status of the embryo, it is necessary," the bishop said, "to use intrinsic criteria in order to achieve an objective judgement on the respect due to the embryo." In the first place, it must be recognized that "the embryo, even in the pre-nidation phase, is a being with its own life separate from that of the mother, a human being from a biological point of view, an individual, and a being with an intrinsic destiny to become a human person."

  Bishop Eijk then recalled how in his Encyclical "Evangelium vitae," John Paul II affirms that modern science can offer "a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life." Aristotle's theory of animation "was based upon his mistaken understanding of the embryo," said the bishop, while "modern anthropological theories which attribute the status of human person to an embryo only at the moment of self-awareness (at the end of pregnancy), or even at that of manifest rational consciousness (some time after birth), are characterized by a profound dualism incapable of explaining the human being as a substantial unity."

  He concluded: "Current embryological and genetic knowledge provides precious indications that the embryo has a specific identity as a human person." That identity "is determined fundamentally, though not alone, by the human genome, which is present and active at conception. Although it is impossible to demonstrate empirically a personal presence from conception, philosophical reflection on the bio-anthropological status of the human embryo points to an incongruity between [the idea of] indirect or gradual humanization and the vision of a human individual as a substantial unity of spirit and body."
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2006 (VIS) - At 4.30 p.m. on March 1, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, Benedict XVI will preside at a moment of prayer in the Church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill. There will follow a penitential procession to the Basilica of Santa Sabina attended by cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and the lay faithful.

  Following the procession, a Eucharistic celebration will be held in the Basilica of Santa Sabina, with the traditional rite of blessing and the imposition of the ashes. This renews the ancient Lenten tradition of the Church of Rome of celebrating Mass in designated "station" or churches.
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VATICAN CITY, FEB 24, 2006 (VIS) - "Blessed are the peacemakers." With these words, Benedict XVI received in the Vatican this morning prelates from the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  "Following the sad years of the recent war," said the Pope, "you as peacemakers are called to reinforce communion and to disseminate mercy, understanding and forgiveness in the name of Christ, both within the Christian communities and throughout the complex social fabric of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  "I well know that yours is not an easy mission, but I also know that you maintain your gaze constantly fixed upon Christ, Who ... gave His disciples a fundamental task that sums up all the others, that of loving. Love ... must not simply follow earthly laws, ... but translate into that higher measure of justice which is mercy." The Pope underlined the fact that, with this spirit, the bishops "will easily be able to carry out the mission entrusted to you, contributing to healing still-open wounds and to resolving contrasts and divisions left over from past years."

  Benedict XVI then went on to mention some of the problems facing the prelates of Bosnia and Herzegovina, such as "the position of exiles, for whom I hope appropriate agreements will be reached in respect of everyone's rights." He also mentioned "the indispensable equality between citizens of various religions, ... the urgent need for measures to meet the growing lack of work for young people, and attenuating ominous tensions between ethnic groups."

  The Holy Father reaffirmed the Holy See's closeness to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a closeness confirmed, among other things, "by the recent appointment of a resident nuncio, who will be able to maintain permanent contact with the country's various requirements." He then went on to consider a number of matters of concern to the bishops in their diocesan lives:

  "First of all, it is important that every effort be made to increase the unity of the flock of Christ, ... overcoming, if necessary, misunderstandings and difficulties associated with events of the past. The Church everywhere pursues a single objective, that of building the Kingdom of God in all lands and in the hearts of all people. To the successors of the Apostles and to their collaborators in the pastoral ministry is entrusted the mission of preserving intact the heritage of the Lord, adhering faithfully to the doctrinal and spiritual patrimony of the Church in her entirety."

  "Blessed are the peacemakers," the Holy Father repeated. "As well as to the Church's mission in the outside world, these words are also applicable to internal relations among her members. The various ecclesiastical elements ... are regulated by canonical norms that are an expression of a centuries-old experience. ... It is up to the bishop, father of the community entrusted to him by Christ, to discern what is appropriate to the building of the Church of Christ. In this sense, the bishop is pontiff, a 'builder of bridges,' between the various elements of the ecclesial community."

  All this, Benedict XVI concluded, "constitutes a particularly important aspect of episcopal ministry at this moment in history, as Bosnia and Herzegovina resume the path of collaboration to build a future of social development and peace."
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