Science accompanied by the wisdom of faith: Vatican conference to explore the human genome


This morning, Vatican officials held a press conference to discuss the upcoming International Conference on the Human Genome, presented, in large part, by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, together with, Bishop Jose L. Redrado O.H., and Fr. Felice Ruffini M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the pontifical council; Maria Luisa Di Pietro, associate professor of bioethics at Rome's Sacred Heart Catholic University, and Fr. Angelo Serra S.J., professor emeritus of human genetics at the same university, presented the conference to reporters.

The 20th international conference is slated to be held at the Vatican from November 17th to the 19th , 2005, and will explore the theme of the human genome.Cardinal Lozano told those gathered that the conference will begin "by considering the genome as a structural element that organizes the human body into its individual and hereditary dimensions; it comprehends the entirety of the genes, but goes further to embrace all the other elements that, with the genes, constitute the original energy, developing throughout an entire existence and representing the key mystery of human life.

"This subject, he said, "is very broad and is to a large extent subject to new research and discoveries," but our aim is to discuss it "from the specific perspective of health," stressing its therapeutic aspects.The Cardinal also noted that the conference would unite "scientific, philosophical and theological reflections to orient the rest of the conference towards the theme of life. …”“From this starting point,” he said, “our journey will be divided into three stages: reality, illumination, action.

"Going on to describe the individual components, Cardinal Lozano explained: "In the first part of our conference we will consider the current reality of genetics, genomic studies and post-genomic studies; chromosome aberrations and congenital disorders; ... genetic predisposition to cancer…” He said that this will also encompass ideas of “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.

"He said that during the second part of the conference, discussions will center 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." Careful attention will also be given to "the application of the knowledge of human genetics according to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as genetics according to the ideas of post-modernity."During the last stage of the conference, Cardinal Lozano said that "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.

"The Cardinal closed by boasting the high-caliber attendees slated for the conference. He said that top experts from various scientific and theological fields, hailing from 17 different countries, including Italy, United Kingdom, Greece, France, Burkina Faso, U.S.A., Iceland, Switzerland, Holland, Colombia, Germany, Spain, India, Japan, Slovakia, Cuba and Mexico, will be in attendance.

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