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Pope Denounces Cloning

Pope John Paul II on Monday outlined a fresh defense of what he calls the "dignity" of human life, denouncing abortion and euthanasia and saying human cloning reduces humans to mere objects.

In his annual speech to Vatican-based diplomats, the pope called the right to life "the most fundamental of human rights."

"Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were!" he said.

"When all moral criteria are removed, scientific research involving the sources of life becomes a denial of the being and the dignity of the person," he said.

Clonaid announced Dec. 27 the birth of the world's first clone, and initially promised DNA testing but later backed off. Clonaid said the parents of the 7-pound baby girl have refused to allow it.

Experts demanded independent verification, saying Clonaid has never had credibility with the scientific community.

"We have been ignoring it because we don't view it as a scientifically valid statement," said Natalie Dewitt, an editor at Nature, the British science journal which published the milestone data in 1997 on Dolly the cloned sheep.

Clonaid was founded by the Raelian religious sect that believes space aliens created life on Earth, and chief executive Brigitte Boisselier acknowledges that outside DNA testing would be needed to make the claim credible.

The pope has long voiced opposition to abortion and euthanasia: in a 1995 encyclical, he declared they were both crimes that no laws can legitimize.

The Vatican has more recently voiced condemnation of cloning and research using stem cells from human embryos.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, for example, called the recent claims that a cloned baby had been born "an expression of a brutal mentality, devoid of any ethical and human consideration."

The Vatican is expected to issue a document, possibly this week, touching on cloning, abortion and other issues that clash with the Roman Catholic Church's moral teaching.

The document, drawn up by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is intended as a guideline for Catholic politicians.

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