Stem Cells: A Papal Study

This week the Holy See will hold its first official international congress on stem-cell research, an indication the Vatican isn't shying away from the science or ethics of the controversial field. Sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, the meeting will focus on alternatives to embryonic- stem-cell research, including adult stem cells and umbilical-cord-blood cells. Two of the most vocal U.S. critics of embryonic research plan to speak --David Prentice of the Family Research Council and Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Conference organizer Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli insists opponents of church doctrine will get air time, too. "We know already there are others who will present the opposite point of view," he says.

At the end of the congress, the group hopes to produce a formal resolution on the best course for future therapies. Participants will also get the ultimate perk: a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo. "Certainly he will take the opportunity to say something of his own," says Gigli. "It will be an important reflection of the Holy Father." The pope's remarks will likely be made public in the Vatican newspaper. But don't expect any major shifts in the pope's thinking, says Doerflinger: "The idea of a change in direction is pretty much a fantasy."

Stem Cells: A Papal Study | News