Rome — A Vatican-hosted conference focused onis drawing an almost surreal line-up of virtual guests. The idea behind the gathering is to foster an open dialogue among a large group of people from all disciplines to share insights about health, humanity, and the future of medicine.
With Pope Francis, Dr. Anthony Fauci, supermodel Cindy Crawford and Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry among the cadre of doctors, scientists, faith leaders, CEOs and philanthropists joining the 3-day virtual conference, a diversity of viewpoints, at least, seemed assured.
The conference — the 5th such gathering on global health issues organized by the Vatican in the last 10 years — was organized by the Vatican's culture ministry in conjunction with the Cura Foundation.
Originally scheduled as an in-person event for May 2020, the meeting was first postponed and then moved online. Organizers say the coronavirus pandemic has given this year's conference even greater relevance, and in that context it also sought to explore how religion and spirituality contribute to health and well-being, with representatives of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths discussing topics including "Religion and the Pandemic" and "Religious Dietary Practices and Health."
Dr. Fauci, President Biden's top medical advisor, opened the meeting on Thursday, calling the coronavirus "a wily opponent" for its ability to mutate and challenge humanity with new variants.
Addressing vaccine hesitancy, Fauci said doubters should be encouraged to get vaccines from people they trust.
"You've got to match the messenger with the audience," he said. "When you go into the trenches and you have someone who's a deeply religious person who will listen to their clergy, that's different than me with a suit, going into an area, telling people to do something."
In other sessions, rock-star Perry and a brain scientist discussed creativity and the brain, while Crawford said she believed balance in all areas of life contributed to good health.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla chimed in to discuss production of their respective companies' COVID vaccines.
During Friday's "Bridging Science and Faith" sessions, participants discussed topics including whether love is finite or infinite, and the neuroscience of empathy and compassion.
The conference is set to run through Saturday, when Pope Francis will deliver public remarks, and hold a private audience with the speakers.