Pope Urges Bush to Reject Research on Embryos

«America Can Show Man as Master, Not Product, of Technology»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today urged U.S. President George W. Bush to reject medical research on human embryos.

Bush later said he would weigh the advice when deciding on whether to allow federal funding for the controversial stem cell work.

«A free and virtuous society, which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage from conception until natural death,» the Pope said, during his first meeting with Bush since the latter became president.

«In defending the right to life, in law and through a vibrant culture of life,» the Holy Father said, «America can show the world the path to a truly humane future, in which man remains the master, not the product, of his technology.»

The U.S. president, who had attended the Group of Eight summit in Genoa, arrived at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo at 11 a.m. to visit the Holy Father.

Bush and his entourage were welcomed in the courtyard of the palace by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Monsignor Paolo De Nicolo, regent of the prefecture of the Pontifical Household.

In the Swiss Room, Cardinal Sodano introduced the president and his wife, Laura, to Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, assistant prefect of the Pontifical Household, who accompanied the president to the Throne Room, where the private meeting with John Paul II took place.

Following the private discussion, Bush´s wife and daughter Barbara were taken to the Throne Room. Together with the Pope and president, they went to the Swiss Room for the official meeting.

In his address, John Paul II expressed the hope that Bush´s «presidency will strengthen your country in its commitment to the principles that inspired American democracy from the beginning, and sustained the nation in its remarkable growth. These principles remain as valid as ever, as you face the challenges of the new century opening up before us.»

The Holy Father referred to America´s founders, who «were guided by a profound sense of responsibility towards the common good, to be pursued in respect for the God-given dignity and inalienable rights of all.»

The Pope stressed that American society must continue «to measure herself by the nobility of her founding vision in building a society of liberty, equality and justice under the law,» and reminded the president that in the last century «these same ideals inspired the American people to resist two totalitarian systems based on an atheistic vision of man and society.»

The Pontiff pointed out that «the world continues to look to America with hope,» yet with «an acute awareness of the crisis of values being experienced in Western society, ever more insecure in the face of the ethical decisions indispensable for humanity´s future course.»

John Paul II alluded to the recent Genoa summit, centered on globalization, and said: «While appreciating the opportunities for economic growth and material prosperity that this process offers, the Church cannot but express profound concern that our world continues to be divided, no longer by the former political and military blocs, but by the tragic fault line between those who can benefit from these opportunities and those who seem cut off from them.»

The Holy Father continued: «The revolution of freedom, of which I spoke at the United Nations in 1995, must now be completed by a revolution of opportunity, in which all the world´s peoples actively contribute to economic prosperity and share in its fruits. This requires leadership by those nations whose religious and cultural traditions should make them most attentive to the moral dimension of the issues involved.»

John Paul II emphasized that respect for human dignity and belief in the equality of all members of the human family «demand policies aimed at enabling all peoples to have access to the means required to improve their lives, including the technological means and skills needed for development.»

He reminded his listeners that leaders of developed nations cannot disregard priorities such as respect «for nature by everyone, a policy of openness to immigrants, the cancellation or significant reduction of the debt of poorer nations, the promotion of peace through dialogue and negotiation, the primacy of the rule of law.»

«A global world is, essentially, a world of solidarity!» the Pope said. He emphasized that because of its «many resources, cultural traditions and religious values,» America «has a special responsibility.»

John Paul II highlighted the fact that respect for human dignity is expressed especially in religious liberty, the first right recognized by American law, to the point that it is also an important objective of U.S. foreign policy.

«I gladly express the appreciation of the whole Catholic Church for America´s commitment in this regard,» he said.

The Holy Father then referred to fundamental human rights, such as the right to life itself, and spoke about the «tragic coarsening of consciences» that makes possible the evils of abortion, euthanasia, infanticide and, more recently, «proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos, destined to destruction in the process.»

Promising his prayers and invoking God´s blessing, the Pope ended the address in which he touched upon the critical issues of the lack of opportunities of poor countries; protection of nature (the United States is the only country that has not accepted the Kyoto pact on the environment); and protection of human life and embryo research.

Bush must decide on federal funding for embryo research in the next few weeks.

In his address to the Holy Father, Bush referred to the times John Paul II visited the United States, and the fact that he has reminded Americans that they have «a special calling to promote justice, and to defend the weak and suffering of the world.»

«We remember your words, and we will always do our best to remember our calling,» the president said.

«Since October of 1978,» he told the Pope, «you have shown the world, not only the splendor of truth, but the power of truth to overcome evil and redirect the course of history. You have urged men and women of good will to take to their knees before God — and to stand, unafraid, before tyrants. And this has added greatly to the momentum of freedom in our time.»

Bush praised John Paul II´s contribution to the defense of human dignity.

«Where there is oppression, you speak of human rights,» Bush said. «Where there is poverty, you speak of justice and hope. Where there is ancient hatred, you defend and display a tolerance that reaches beyond every boundary of race and nation and belief.

«Where there is great abundance, you remind us that wealth must be matched with compassion and moral purpose. And always, to all, you have carried the Gospel of life, which welcomes the stranger and protects the weak and innocent.»

The U.S. president said that every «nation, including my own, would benefit from hearing and heeding this message of conscience. Above all, you have carried the message of the Gospel into 126 nations, and into the third millennium, always with courage and confidence.»

«You have brought the love of God into the lives of men,» Bush said. «And that Good News is needed in every nation and every age.»

The speeches were followed by an exchange of gifts before the Pope bid the president and his wife farewell.

The presidential party was then ushered into the Chigi Room, where George Bush met again with Cardinal Sodano. The president was accompanied by Andrew Card, assistant to the president; Condoleeza Rice, assistant for National Security Affairs; Joseph Merante, director of affairs of the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican; Beth Jones, of the European Affairs Office of the U.S. State Department; and Daniel Fried, special assistant to the preside
nt for Europe and Eurasia.

Cardinal Sodano was accompanied by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states; Monsignor Tommaso Caputo, chief of protocol of the Secretariat of State, and Monsignor Steven Zak, of the secretariat.

Later, Bush met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. At a press conference, according to CNN, Bush said that the Pope had not raised the topic of stem cell research during their private session, but had instead focused on foreign policy and Bush´s meeting on Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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