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Pope Francis, Benedict XVI get COVID-19 vaccine

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Vatican. |

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have both received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a spokesperson for the Vatican.

The vaccination program at Vatican City began on Wednesday, with the current head of the Roman Catholic Church and his predecessor getting the shot.

“I can confirm that as part of the vaccination program of the Vatican City State, as of today, the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and to the Pope Emeritus,” stated Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, as reported by Vatican News.

In comments made earlier this week, Francis had explained that he planned to take the vaccine, stating that it was “an ethical action, because you are gambling with your health, you are gambling with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” reported Vatican News.

After a vaccine was developed for the coronavirus, some pro-life groups and others expressed concern over how aborted fetal cells were used in its development.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed partly through growing a modified virus in cells taken from embryonic kidney tissue derived from an abortion performed decades ago; while aborted tissue was not part of the vaccine, it was used for testing it.

The Moderna vaccine was developed via the HEK-293T cell line, which were indirect descendants of aborted fetal cells derived from a baby aborted in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

These facts led some pro-life organizations, like Georgia Right to Life, to denounce the vaccine and urge their supporters to refrain from taking it.

"The production and testing of vaccines using the remains of aborted human beings, regardless of manner of conception, is morally wrong and must be opposed. GRTL strongly urges the rejection of such vaccines," the group stated.

For its part, the Vatican had issued a statement last month explaining that it was “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take the vaccine, despite some concern over its origins.

A statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope Francis said that “all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

“It is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” stated the CDF.

Some Christian ethicists have also made the case for taking the vaccine, arguing that the vaccines were not the cause of any new abortions.

An individual “is not formally cooperating with a moral evil when using a vaccine developed thanks to an abortion,” Matthew Arbo, C. Ben Mitchell and Andrew T. Walker stated. "The cell lines involved in developing and confirming the viability of COVID-19 vaccines were used as a result of previous abortions."

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