VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI appealed Thursday to South Koreans’ “inherent moral sensibility” to reject embryonic stem cell research and human cloning after the country decided to let embryonic stem cell research resume.
Benedict also praised South Korea’s efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear ambitions in comments to Seoul’s new ambassador to the Vatican, Ji-Young Francesco Kim, who presented his credentials to the pontiff.
“It is my ardent hope that the ongoing participation of various countries involved in the negotiation process will lead to a cessation of programs designed to develop and produce weapons with frightening potential for unspeakable destruction,” Benedict said.
Separately, the pope noted South Korea’s “notable successes in scientific research and development.” But he said such research must be carried out with “firm ethical standards” that always respect the dignity of human life.
“The destruction of human embryos, whether to acquire stem cells or for any other purpose, contradicts the purported intent of researchers, legislators and public health officials to promote human welfare,” the pope said.
“I pray that the inherent moral sensibility of the Korean people, as evidenced by their rejection of human cloning and related procedures, will help attune the international community to the deep ethical and social implications of scientific research and its utilization,” the pontiff said.
Last month, South Korea decided to allow research on creating stem cells through human embryonic cloning to resume despite a scandal involving a prominent scientist in the field.
Such research had been suspended following the downfall of Hwang Woo-suk, a scientist once regarded as a national hero for internationally hailed work in cloning and stem cell research that was later shown to be falsified.
Stem cells are master cells that can grow into any bodily tissues, which scientists say could lead to revolutionary new cures for hard-to-treat diseases.
Benedict noted that the Vatican does not oppose – and in fact encourages – somatic stem cell research – also known as “therapeutic cloning,” which uses human eggs specifically for research from which stem cells are harvested.
The Vatican approves of such research because it doesn’t involve obtaining a fertilized egg or embryo to harvest the stem cells. The Vatican holds that life begins at conception.