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Papal Address to Conference on Genome

"Human Dignity Can't Be Identified With Genes"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Nov. 19 to the participants at the international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers on the theme of the human genome.

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Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I address my cordial greeting to you all, with a special thought of gratitude to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán for the kind greeting he has expressed on behalf of those present.

I offer a special greeting to the bishops and priests who are taking part in this conference as well as the speakers, who have certainly made a highly qualified contribution to the problems addressed in these days: Their reflections and suggestions will be the subject of an attentive evaluation by the competent ecclesial bodies.

Placing myself in the pastoral perspective proper to the pontifical council that has sponsored this conference, I would like to point out that today, especially in the area of breakthroughs in medical science, the Church is being given a further possibility of carrying out the precious task of enlightening consciences, in order to ensure that every new scientific discovery will serve the integral good of the person, with constant respect for his or her dignity.

In underlining the importance of this pastoral task, I would like first of all to say a word of encouragement to those in charge of promoting it.

The contemporary world is marked by the process of secularization. Through complex cultural and social events, it has not only claimed a just autonomy for science and the organization of society, but has all too often also obliterated the link between temporal realities and their Creator, even to the point of neglecting to safeguard the transcendent dignity of human beings and respect for human life itself.

Today, however, secularization in the form of radical secularism no longer satisfies the more aware and alert minds. This means that possible and perhaps new spaces are opening up for a profitable dialogue with society and not only with the faithful, especially on important themes such as those relating to life.

This is possible because, in peoples with a long Christian tradition, there are still seeds of humanism which the disputes of nihilistic philosophy have not yet reached. Indeed, these seeds tend to germinate more vigorously, the more serious the challenges become.

Believers, moreover, know well that the Gospel is in an intrinsic harmony with the values engraved in human nature. Thus, God's image is deeply impressed in the soul of the human being, the voice of whose conscience it is far from easy to silence.

With the Parable of the Sower, Jesus in the Gospel reminds us that there is always good ground on which the seed may fall, spring up and bear fruit. Even people who no longer claim to be members of the Church or even those who have lost the light of faith, nonetheless remain attentive to the human values and positive contributions that the Gospel can make to the good of the individual and of society.

It is particularly easy to become aware of this by reflecting on the topic of your conference: The people of our time, whose sensitivity, moreover, has been heightened by the terrible events that have clouded the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, easily understand that human dignity cannot be identified with the genes of the human being's DNA and is not diminished by the possible presence of physical differences or genetic defects.

The principle of "non-discrimination" on the basis of physical or genetic factors has deeply penetrated consciences and is formally spelled out in the charters of human rights. The truest foundation of this principle lies in the dignity inherent in every human person because he or she is created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26).

What is more, a serene analysis of scientific data leads to a recognition of the presence of this dignity in every phase of human life, starting from the very moment of conception. The Church proclaims and proposes this truth not only with the authority of the Gospel, but also with the power that derives from reason. This is precisely why she feels duty bound to appeal to every person of good will in the certainty that the acceptance of these truths cannot but benefit individuals and society.

Indeed, it is necessary to preserve ourselves from the risks of a science and technology that claim total autonomy from the moral norms inscribed in the nature of the human being.

There are many professional bodies and academies in the Church that are qualified to evaluate innovations in the scientific environment, particularly in the ...

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