Speaking at the Unite For Cure Fourth International Vatican Conference in Rome, Holy Father Pope Francis said ‘many evils’ could be avoided if greater attention was paid to living a good lifestyle.
Addressing some of the world’s leading doctors and scientists, Pope Francis said diseases like cancer could be avoided if people adopted good health practices from childhood.
“We are increasingly aware that many evils can be avoided if greater attention is paid to the style of life we adopt and the culture we promote,” he told delegates.
“Prevention involves taking a farsighted look at human beings and the environment in which we live.
“It means aiming for a culture of balance, whose essential factors – education, physical activity, diet, the protection of the environment...can help us to live better, with fewer health risks.
“This is all the more important when we think of children and of young people, who are increasingly at risk because of illnesses linked to the radical changes of modern culture.
“We need but reflect on the impact on health caused by smoking, alcohol consumption, and toxins released in the air, in the water and in the soil.
“A number of tumors and other health problems in adults could be avoided by adopting preventive measures during childhood.
“It is urgent to foster everywhere a culture of prevention as the first step in health care.”
Pope Francis said living well required ‘constant global action’ which should not simply be left to social and government institutions.
He also praised the ‘great strides’ made in scientific research particularly for rare, autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases and said the world was now enjoying a ‘significant chapter in human progress.”
But Pope Francis warned scientists not to avoid the ethical implications in their work in their desire to push forward.
“In recent years, advances in cellular research and in the field of regenerative medicine have opened new horizons in the areas of tissue repair and experimental therapies,” he said.
“Science is a powerful means for better understanding the natural world and human health.
“It has opened up new possibilities and provided refined technologies that enable us not only to examine the deepest structure of living organisms, including man, but also to intervene in ways so profound and precise as to make it possible even to modify our DNA.
“Here we see the 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”.”
He added that ‘certain limits’ should be respected for the good of humanity.
Dr Robin Smith, President of the Cura Foundation which organised the conference said: “Our collaboration began 10 years ago with Pope Benedict, who saw the need to educate the world on a powerful idea – that science and faith can inform one another.
“Pope Francis has extended this vision, highlighting the need for collaboration, understanding, compassion and care for the Earth.”