The Pope reiterated his opposition to the destruction of embryos, which the church considers sacred human life in its most defenseless form, but confirmed his support of using adult stem cells.
“When the end in view is so eminently desirable as the discovery of a cure for degenerative illnesses, it is tempting for scientists and policy-makers to brush aside ethical objections and to press ahead with whatever research seems to offer the prospect of a breakthrough, said Pope Benedict XVI at a stem-cell research conference in the Vatican City on Saturday.
The Catholic leader also warned that the destruction of human life, including human embryos, could not be justified, regardless of any potential benefits it may have for the lives of others, according to global news agency AFP.
However, the Pope revealed the Church supports research into adult stem cells that does not destroy embryos, but instead are taken from adult organs and can be used to cure diseases.
The conference, that collaborated United States stem-cell research company NeoStem with the Pontifical Council for Culture, gathered a wide variety of speakers, from philosophers to theologians and scientists. They discussed the cultural and ethical implications of stem cell research, including future projects and how religious leaders and scientists can work together in guiding the field.
Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, who is the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the conference dispels notions that the Church tried to counter the progress of science. The meeting comes at a crucial time for the growing stem cell market that is said to reach $88 billion in the next couple of years.
The Pope also made it clear that caution is needed when choosing the scientific methods pursued, and that science should never endanger human life.
"Illness is no respecter of persons, and justice demands that every effort be made to place the fruits of scientific research at the disposal of all who stand to benefit from them, irrespective of their means," the pope declared.