Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pope Benedict supports adult stem cell research

Pope Benedict XVI endorsed adult stem cell research Wednesday, distinguishing it from the manipulation of stem cells from human embryos, which the Roman Catholic Church condemns.
Speaking at the end of his weekly general audience, the Roman Catholic leader saluted delegates at a global conference on the use of adult stem cells to treat cardiac problems, organised by La Spaienza university in Rome.

"On this matter the position of the Church, supported by reason and by science, is clear," he said.

"Scientific research must be encouraged and promoted, so long as it does not harm other human beings, whose dignity is inviolable from the very first stages of existence."

The Roman Catholic Church believes that an embryo is wholly a human being. For that reason, it condemns abortion and genetic manipulation such as research on embryonic stem cells.
Unlike embryonic stem cells, or primitive cells from early-stage embryos capable of developing into almost every tissue of the body, adult stem cells divide to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues.

They can be isolated from tissue samples taken from adults, and -- unlike embryonic stem cells -- they are already being used to tackle a number of diseases, including several forms of cancer.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vatican defends World War II pope

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON, Associated Press

The Vatican stepped up its defense Tuesday of Pope Pius XII, with its No. 2 official decrying that the World War II pontiff was the victim of a "black legend" claiming he remained largely silent in the face of the Holocaust.

Less than a month after the Vatican took a new step to put Pius on the road to sainthood, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said that historical research and thousands of personal stories prove the pontiff acted behind the scenes to save the lives of Jews and other victims.

Pius "is the victim of a 'black legend,' which has spread to a point that it is difficult to change it, even though documents and witnesses have widely proven its complete inconsistency," the Vatican secretary of state said at a presentation of a book about the wartime pope.

Bertone acknowledged that Pius was "cautious" in his denunciations of Nazi persecutions, but said that any bolder public moves would have only angered the Axis powers, accelerating the extermination of Jews while endangering the Vatican and Europe's Catholics.

"Popes do not speak while thinking of creating for themselves a favorable image for posterity," Bertone said. "They hold dear to their heart the fate of men and women of flesh and blood, not the praise of historians."

Last month, a panel of bishops and cardinals at the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood approved a declaration on Pius' virtues, passing the dossier to Pope Benedict XVI. If Benedict signs the document, it will be the first major step toward possible beatification for Pius. The Vatican would then have to confirm a miracle attributed to Pius' intercession for him to be beatified, and a second miracle for him to be made a saint.

The move came shortly after a public spat between the Holy See and Israel over the pontiff's wartime conduct. In April, the Vatican ambassador to Israel threatened to boycott an annual memorial service at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem because of a photo caption at the museum that said Pius did not protest the Nazi genocide of Jews and maintained a largely "neutral position."

The envoy later reversed his decision and attended the event, but the incident frayed the Vatican's sensitive relations with Israel and with Jews, many of whom share in the criticism of Pius.