International Vatican conference to explore human genetics in light of the Word of God

The Holy See has announced that the twentieth international conference, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Heath Care Ministry, and scheduled to be held at the Vatican this November, will explore the broad theme of "the human genome."

The human genome, which is defined as the full compliment of genetic material inherited from one's parents, constitutes "a very broad topic and to a large extent subject to new research and discovery," according to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the pontifical council.

In a written overview on the conference, the Cardinal wrote that specialists in the field from around the world will explore the theme "according to our usual method. We will begin", he wrote, "with a vision of the genome in the light of the Word of God, and from this we will develop our exploration of it in three stages: reality, illumination, action."

"In the first part of our conference", he said, "we will consider the current reality of genetics, genomic studies and post-genomic studies; chromosome aberrations and congenital disorders; ... genetic predisposition to cancer; ... medical care for patients with these diseases and their families; judgment, error and negligence in genetic aspects of maternal fetal medicine; ... human genetics and its international juridical status; genetic research and international cooperation."

The second part of the conference, Cardinal Barragan added, will focus on "the historical process of human genetics; ... the ethics of medical genetics; the path of liberal eugenics and the ethics of medical consultancy in the field of genetics." He said that participants will give special attention to "the application of the knowledge of human genetics according to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as genetics according to the thought of post-modernity."

In the conference's last part, he said, "we will examine genetics and the new culture, the pastoral vision of genetic research, medical genetics and ethical committees in hospitals, law and genetics, ... education and the updating of pastoral workers in the field of genetics, and the prevention of genetic diseases from the point of view of pastoral care."

Human genetics have been at the center of heated debate in the scientific and religious world as leaders grapple with responsible use of scientific advances. The Catholic Church has spoken strongly against issues of cloning, stem cell research and others which many say will have tremendous ethical ramifications.

The pontifical conference will be held at the Vatican from November 17th to the 19th of this year.

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