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Pope John Paul II has spoken out against tampering with ‘the gift of human life’, warning that some biomedical advances may be unacceptable to the Roman Catholic Church.

“Not everything that is technically possible is morally acceptable,” he said in his message for Lent, the period of penitence that begins on 13 February. His remarks have been widely interpreted as being aimed at recent scientific advances in fields such as human genomics and the use of embryonic stem cells.

“The achievements of medicine and biotechnology can sometimes lead man to think of himself as his own creator, and to succumb to the temptation of tampering with ‘the tree of life’,” he said.

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