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A French doctor who made Down’s discovery closer to the sanctuary



ROME (FR) – A French doctor who discovered the genetic basis of Down syndrome but spent his career defending abortion as a result of prenatal diagnosis took his first big step toward the possibility of sanctity.

On Thursday, Pope Francis endorsed the “heroic virtues” of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, who lived from 1926-1994 and was especially valued by St. John Paul II for his stance against abortion.

The papal recognition of Lejeune’s virtues means that he is considered “honorable” by the Catholic Church. Now the Vatican must confirm the miracle attributed to his petition to be beatified, and second, to be canonized.

According to his official biography, Lejeune in 1

958 discovered the existence of an extra chromosome on the 21st pair during a study of a child’s chromosomes. This was the first time scientists had discovered a link between intellectual disability and a chromosomal abnormality; the condition is now known as trisomy 21.

“Although the results of his research should help medicine move to a cure, they are often used to identify children carrying these diseases as early as possible, usually for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy,” the Jerome Lejeune Foundation wrote in its biography.

“Immediately after the drafting of abortion laws in Western countries, Lejeune began advocating for the protection of the unborn with Down syndrome: he gave hundreds of conferences and interviews around the world in defense of life,” the group said.

In 1974, John Paul made Lejeune a member of the think tank of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican and later appointed him first chairman of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Holy See’s main advisory commission on bioethics.

John Paul visited Lejeune’s grave during World Youth Day in Paris in 1997.

Although John Paul made the church’s staunch opposition to abortion a hallmark of his papacy for a quarter of a century, Francis also strongly condemned what he called today’s “discarded culture,” which considers the weak, disabled, or sick to be disposable. He likened abortion to hiring a “killer” to take care of a problem.


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