Science Cannot Plunder Living Beings, Say German Bishops

Cardinal Lehmann´s Address at Opening of Plenary Assembly

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BERLIN, FEB. 20, 2002 ( A decided «no» to genetic manipulation has become the most important topic at the plenary assembly of the German bishops´ conference this week in Stuttgart.

On Jan. 30, Parliament approved a law authorizing the importation of stem cells from human embryos. The embryos die in the process of cell extraction, and the bishops described this as the first step toward genetic manipulation.

In his opening address Monday, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of Mainz and president of the episcopal conference, said the «Church will never cease to speak of the embryo as being man from the beginning, and of human dignity.»

«We are certainly not against scientific research,» the cardinal said. «However, today the border between research and practical application is extremely tenuous,» due in part to economic interests, he added.

Living «beings, animals and embryos cannot be plundered by science; economic interests must be transparent and controlled in regard to their ethical tolerance,» the cardinal said.

The bishops are addressing other critical issues, including the situation of Christians in the turbulent Middle East.

The bishops appealed to German Catholics not to interrupt their pilgrimages to the Holy Land, «not only for religious reasons, but also to support the local population.»

«There is no danger for tourists,» said Auxiliary Bishop Manfred Melzer of Cologne, who just returned from a trip to Jerusalem. «The marked reduction in pilgrims threatens the existence of Palestinian Christians. Their situation has greatly worsened over the past three years.»

Bishop Melzer said a third of the 165,000 Christian Arabs of the Palestinian Territories and Israel live under the poverty line, and 30% are considering emigration.

The German bishops also supported the Palestinians´ right to their own state, while calling at the same time for an end to terrorist violence and Israel´s right to security.

The bishops will also study the situation of the consultation centers for pregnant women in difficulty, which, at John Paul II´s request, no longer issue certificates that might be used to obtain access to abortions.

There will be a debate on ecumenical dialogue, especially the preparation for the ecumenical «Kirchentag» planned in Berlin next year. To date, the Kirchentag has been the big day for German Catholics´ congresses and exhibitions.

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