Pope tells geneticists that destroying embryos is unjustifiable

Pope Francis prays in front of a figure representing Our Lady of Fatima during his visit to the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Fatima shrine, in Fatima on May 12, 2017.
Pope Francis prays in front of a figure representing Our Lady of Fatima during his visit to the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Fatima shrine, in Fatima on May 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis praised scientists working on treatments for genetic diseases on Thursday (May 18) but condemned any use of human embryos in medical research.

"I encourage you to carry out (your work) in ways that do not contribute to nourishing the 'throwaway culture' that sometimes creeps into the world of scientific research," he said at an event aimed at raising awareness of Huntington's disease, a degenerative brain condition.

"We know that no end, even a noble one like the expectation of a benefit for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos," Francis added.

Thousands of people who suffer from Huntington's disease, an inherited condition which can eventually make a person unable to walk, talk or swallow, attended the event at the Vatican with their families.

Many travelled from Latin America, where some countries are disproportionately affected by the disease, to listen to the Argentine pontiff.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) says 2.7 people in every 100,000 globally present the disease - not including gene carriers - but prevalence is up to 1,000 times higher in pockets of Latin America.