Vatican welcomes first synthetic cell - with reservations


  • Category:

News that US scientists have created the first synthetic cell, has been given a cautious welcome by the Vatican. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, director of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told an Italian television programme that if it was correctly used, it could be a positive development - but he affirmed: "only God can create life."

"If it is used to promote the good, to treat pathologies, we can only be positive".. "If it turns out not to be ... used to respect the dignity of the person, then our judgment would change." Msgr Fisichella said.

"We look at science with great interest. But we think above all about the meaning that must be given to life. We can only reach the conclusion that we need God, the origin of life."

While some media coverage over the weekend made dramatic claims that scientists were 'playing God', scientist Craig Venter who previously worked on the Genome Project, explained that the world's first synthetic cell invented by his team, was more a re-creation of existing life, changing one simple type of bacterium into another, rather than a new life form "built from scratch".

He said it could pave the way for designing organisms that could be used for a number of different applications.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who leads the Italian Bishops' Conference, said the invention was "further sign of intelligence, God's gift to understand creation and be able to better govern it. On the other hand, intelligence can never be without responsibility. Any form of intelligence and any scientific acquisition ... must always be measured against the ethical dimension, which has at its heart the true dignity of every person."