Vatican City, Jan 21, 2021 / 06:30 am
Pope Francis recognized on Thursday the heroic virtues of Jérôme Lejeune, the French geneticist who discovered the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.
The step, announced on Jan. 21, means that Lejeune can now be referred to as “Venerable.”
Heroic virtue is one of the requirements for beatification in the Catholic Church. A verified miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession is also usually required.
Lejeune was born on June 13, 1926, in Montrouge, in the southern Parisian suburbs. In 1958, he deduced that Down syndrome was caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21.
He dedicated the rest of his life to researching treatments to improve the lives of people with Down syndrome.
He firmly opposed the use of prenatal testing to identify unborn children with Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities for abortion.
When he received the prestigious William Allan Award for his work in genetics in 1969, he gave an impassioned speech opposing abortion.
“For millennia, medicine has striven to fight for life and health and against disease and death. Any reversal of the order of these terms of reference would entirely change medicine itself,” he said.