VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Pontifical Academy for Life plans an anniversary celebration this month to mark its 10th birthday and to honor its first president, the late French geneticist Jérôme Lejeune.
John Paul II had appointed Lejeune to give life to this pontifical academy. In 1958 the geneticist discovered the anomaly that causes Down syndrome.
The academy’s 10th General Assembly, planned for Feb. 19-22, will dedicate the first day to the celebration of the anniversary.
Three themes will be developed on that day: the activities of the academy during the past decade; a commemoration for Lejeune; and the teachings of John Paul II on human life. The day will conclude with a concert in the Paul VI Hall for choir and orchestra, directed by Marco Frisina.
The Pope intends to participate in the anniversary celebrations, either by welcoming the participants in a private audience or through a message he will deliver.
With his 1994 apostolic letter “Vitae Mysterium,” John Paul II instituted the Pontifical Academy for Life. Its objectives are the study of the principal problems of biomedicine and law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, in the line of Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s magisterium.
Since the death of Lejeune in April 1994, the academy has been headed by Chilean Dr. Juan de Dios Vial Correa, who is assisted by a vice president, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, and by a board of directors of five academicians named by the Pope.
Seventy members named by the Holy Father belong to the academy. They include representatives from various branches of biomedical sciences. There are also three “ad honorem” members, as well as members who work through correspondence.
The theme of this year’s general assembly is “The Dignity of Human Procreation and Reproductive Technologies: Anthropological and Ethical Aspects.” The proceedings will be published in Italian and English in the coming months.