ROME – On Thursday, the Fifth International Vatican Conference will begin to explore “the mind, body and soul,” bringing together religious leaders, scientists and personalities from sports and Hollywood.

Pope Francis is expected to address the participants.

The May 6-8 online gathering will include conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine and health care delivery, as well as the cultural impact of technological advances.

Organized in partnership between the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, the Cura Foundation, and the Science and Faith (STOQ) Foundation, the summit is also expected to speak about COVID-19 vaccines.

An April 22 email from the Cura Foundation noted that “the Catholic Church has come under scrutiny for questioning the use of the J&J vaccine but came out on the side of science saying it’s better to get any vaccine — and that is the point of this gathering.”

The reference to the Johnson & Johnson alludes to the “moral concerns” raised by several bishops about its production using cell lines derived from the tissue of fetuses aborted decades ago. However, the Vatican put those concerns to rest by arguing that by receiving the vaccine the faithful would not be “cooperating” with the “moral evil of abortion.”

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The event will be moderated by renowned journalists such as Katie Couric, Moira Forbes and Dr. Mehmet Oz. They will be tasked with exploring the role of religion, faith and spirituality in the health field, and the interplay of the mind, body and soul.

Aside from the pope, Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture will also address the event.

The list of speakers also include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the U.S. president; Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO, Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that provided the Vatican City State with its COVID-19 vaccines; Debra Houry, Director of the CDC; wellbeing guru Deepak Chopra; former model Cindy Crawford; and Joe Perry of the band Aerosmith.

Titled “Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul, Unite to Prevent & Unite to Cure, a Global Health Care Initiative, How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health,” this is the fifth conference on regenerative medicine organized in the Vatican.

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“Once again, we bring together scientists, physicians, health care providers, social workers, religious leaders of many different beliefs, representatives of law and industry, scholars of ethics, anthropology and philanthropy, and others, all representing different perspectives on the world,” said Ravasi in a statement. “No one approach can solve the perplexing and critical challenges of our times. More lenses are needed to bring into focus a complete picture of being and existence.”

When the conferences began during Benedict XVI’s pontificate, the aim was promoting adult stem cell research.

The 2011 conference was on the theme “Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture,” the 2013 was on “Adult Stem Cell Conference: Regenerative Medicine — A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture.” The 2016 conference was aimed at raising global awareness about cellular therapies to treat disease and reduce global suffering.

Though generally supportive of the conference during his remarks, Pope Francis has thus far always taken the opportunity to note that not everything is justifiable in the name of scientific progress.

For instance, in 2018 he told participants that there’s a need for “an increased awareness of our ethical responsibility towards humanity and the environment in which we live.”

“While the Church applauds every effort in research and application directed to the care of our suffering brothers and sisters, she is also mindful of the basic principle that not everything technically possible or doable is thereby ethically acceptable,” Francis said. “Science, like all other human activities, is conscious that certain limits must be respected for the good of humanity itself, and that a sense of ethical responsibility is needed.”

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