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Vatican condemns cloning of embryo

The Vatican condemned the first reported cloning of a human embryo, saying yesterday that promises of "sensational" cures from diseases can't justify the step by scientists in the US.

Reacting to the news that the scientists had cloned a six-cell embryo, the Vatican said that the event "moves us to restate with force that the beginning of human life cannot be fixed by convention at a certain stage of embryonic development; it takes place, in reality, already at the first instant of the embryo itself."

"Thus, despite the declared `humanistic' intentions by those who predict sensational cures via this path ... what is needed is a calm but firm judgment which shows the moral gravity of this plan and which motivates an unequivocal condemnation," said the Vatican statement.

Earlier in the day, a top Vatican official, Monsignor Tarcisio Bertone, told Italian state television: "Therapeutic aims are excellent, they are praiseworthy. However, it is the means used that raise the questions."

If it involves "production and destruction of human beings to treat other human beings," said Bertone, "the end doesn't justify the means."

The scientists involved in the cloning have said they have no desire to create babies but only to create embryos as a way to obtain stem cells to fight disease.

The Vatican statement said that the human embyro cloning made ever more urgent the bioethical question of just when human life begins.