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Vatican Cancels Stem Cell Conference Amid Controversy

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"I think the only interpretation is that we are being censored," Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco, said in a statement. "It is very disappointing that they are unwilling to hear the truth."

The conference was being sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life, founded by Pope John Paul II in 1994 as an international forum for bioethicists who are committed to studying, upholding and promoting the Church's teachings on the sanctify of life. It was set for April 25-28 at the Vatican.

Previous conferences followed the Church's recommendation that program topics be limited to stem-cell research using adult cells harvested from live donors, rather than embryonic cells. But this year's schedule featured some of the world's foremost experts in embryonic research who, according to the conference's preliminary program, would be discussing "the clinical use of stem cells, with emphasis on the ethical aspects of their applications."

The key lecture was to be given by George Daley of Harvard Stem Cell Institute, a practitioner of embryonic stem cell research. Other speakers included Trounson as well as John Wagner of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute, both of whom are on record in support of embryonic stem cell research.

Daley told the Boston Globe that he had not been prohibited from speaking about embryonic stem cell research, but had been asked not to focus on that research in his talk. He planned to discuss embryonic cells in the context of the history of stem cell research and focus on the importance of establishing stem cell medicines on a very rigorous basis of rigorous clinical trials.

However, CNA reported that another member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who also did not want to be named, said that the cancellation of the conference was an enormous relief to many Academy members who felt that the presence of so many speakers committed to embryonic stem cell research, including the keynote speaker, "was a betrayal of the mission of the Academy and a public scandal."

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