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Monday, February 23, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2009 (VIS) - At midday today the Pope received participants in a congress entitled: "New frontiers of genetics and the dangers of eugenics". The congress, promoted by the Pontifical Academy for Life for the occasion of its twenty-fifth general assembly, was held in the Vatican's New Synod Hall on 20 and 21 February.

  Scientific progress, said the Holy Father, "enables us to achieve not just an earlier and more effective diagnosis of genetic ailments, but also to produce forms of treatment that can alleviate the suffering of sick people and, in some cases, even give them the hope of regaining their health".

  Collaboration among the various branches of science, said Benedict XVI, "makes it possible to avoid the risk of genetic reductionism which tends to identify individuals exclusively in terms of genetic information and its interaction with the environment. It must be stressed that man will always be greater than the elements that form his body. He has, in fact, the power of thought which always tends towards the truth about himself and the world".

  "Each human being, then, is much more than an individual combination of genetic information transmitted by his or her parents. ... The arrival of a new person into the world is always a new creation", he said.

  "If, then, we wish to enter into the mystery of human life, no branch of science must isolate itself claiming to possess the final word. Rather, it must participate in the shared vocation to reach the truth, though with the different methodologies and subject matter proper to each of the sciences".

  Referring then to the danger of eugenics, the Holy Father noted how, despite its having been condemned in the past, "worrying manifestations of this odious practice", still persist. "A new mentality is insinuating itself", he said, "one that tends towards a different view of life and of personal dignity founded on personal desires and individual rights. The tendency is to favour operative capacity, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty, to the detriment of other dimensions of existence which are not considered to be worthy. In this way, we diminish the respect that is due to each human being, even in the presence of a defect in his or her development or of a genetic ailment which may manifest itself during the course of a person's life; while children whose lives are judged as being unworthy to be lived are penalised from conception.

  "It is necessary", he added, "to reiterate the fact that all discrimination against ... individuals, people or ethnic groups on the basis of differences in real or presumed genetic factors is an attack on the entire human race. What must be forcefully underlined is that all human beings, by the very fact of having been born, enjoy equal dignity. Biological, mental and cultural development, or the state of a person's health, must never become a factor for discrimination".

  Benedict XVI went on: "We must consolidate a culture of acceptance and of love, showing real solidarity towards those who suffer and breaking down the barriers that society often puts up to discriminate against people affected by disabilities or serious illness or, worse still , to select and reject life in the name of an abstract ideal of health and physical perfection. If man is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the earliest stages of his development, this means that medical biotechnology submits to the will of the strongest. Faith in science must not make us forget the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake".
AC/GENETICS EUGENICS/...                    VIS 20090223 (610)

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