At a meeting in Italy last week, Pope John Paul II urged US President George W Bush to ban the use of human embryonic stem cells in medical research. Calling for the ban, the Pope warned that the US government should not support something that 'devalues and violates human life at any stage, from conception until natural death'.
The Pope condemned human embryonic stem cell research as 'evil' in his speech given after a private meeting with the President. In the speech he lamented 'evils such as euthanasia, infanticide, and, most recently, proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos destined to destruction in the process'. He said that America should reject such practices as a 'free and virtuous society'.
The Pope's advice comes at a time when Mr Bush is facing a dilemma over whether to allow federal funding of such research. The Vatican is opposed to such research as it involves 'the abortion of human embryos'. Mr Bush does not wish to alienate the large number of Catholic voters in the US. Last week, in a press conference following his meeting with the Pope, the President said 'I frankly do not care what the political polls say. I do care about the opinions of people, particularly someone as profound as the Holy Father.'
The President said he would take the Pope's advice into consideration while deciding on the stem cell issue for the US. He said what troubled him is 'the need to balance value and respect for life with the promise of science and the hope of saving life'.