A top Vatican official for bioethics criticised US President Barack Obama's decision to fund broader research into stem cells.
Monsignor Rino Fisichella said Obama's executive order was a "victory of politics over ethics" and suggested the US administration was looking out for the interests of drug companies.
Fisichella, who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, was quoted by Italy's ANSA news agency as saying that "probably some drug companies, or some economic interests" influenced the decision to reverse the restrictions on funding imposed by the Bush administration.
Scientists hope to use embryonic stem cells to regenerate diseased cells in those suffering a variety of fatal or debilitating diseases.
'Guidelines can avoid perils'
Former President George W. Bush had limited the use of taxpayer money allowed for the research, saying it required the destruction of embryos and is therefore morally wrong.
This week, Obama said he was ending what he believed was "a false choice between sound science and moral values," adding that the research shows great potential and that "with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided."
The US Bishops' Conference has also criticised the move and the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper ran an article reiterating the Catholic Church's position, which holds that embryos must be considered human beings.
The article did not directly mention Obama's decision, but said that protecting embryos should be "the basis of a real democracy, capable of recognising the equality of all men and of avoiding any unjust discrimination based on their development or health." – (Sapa, March 2009)
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