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No research can ever justify destroying human embryos, Pope Francis says

Pope Francis embraces a patient with Huntington's disease (CNS photo)

Pope Francis has urged scientists not to take part in a “throwaway culture” by destroying human embryos in the search for a cure to Huntington’s disease.

“We know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos,” the Pope said yesterday.

At a meeting with 1,700 people, many of whom suffering from the degenerative condition, Pope Francis said Jesus proved through His love that disease and sickness are “never an obstacle to encountering people”.

“Fragility is not an evil. And disease, which is an expression of fragility, cannot and must not make us forget that, in the eyes of God, our value is always priceless,” the Pontiff said.

The meeting was sponsored by HDdennomore (pronounced “Hidden no more”), a coalition of neuroscientists, research experts and institutes with the goal of “ending the stigma and shame around the disease.”

Huntington’s disease results in the death of brain cells and causes problems with a person’s mental abilities, body coordination and movement.

Acknowledging the “shame, isolation and abandonment” faced by those with the disorder, the pope said that, for too long, people with Huntington’s disease have been met with “misunderstandings and barriers, truly excluding them.”

However, he added, the organizing coalition’s motto, “‘Hidden no more’ is not simply a slogan so much as a commitment that we all must foster,” and Huntington’s disease can become “an opportunity for encounter, for sharing, for solidarity.”

After his speech, the pope spent nearly one hour individually greeting 150 Huntington’s disease patients seated in the front rows along with their families. Many of them were overcome with emotion as he laid his hand on their head or kissed their cheek.

Maria Esther, Franklin and Yosebly, three siblings from Venezuela who inherited the disease, wept as the pope blessed them and embraced them. According to HDdennomore, the siblings were often victims of “cruel stares” and “isolation” after their symptoms manifested.

Jesus’ closeness to the suffering, Pope Francis said in his speech, gave hope to the sick and the marginalized because “they felt they were listened to, respected and loved.”

“May none of you ever feel you are alone; may none of you feel you are a burden; may no one feel the need to run away,” the pope said. “You are precious in the eyes of God; you are precious in the eyes of the church.”