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Catholic World News News Feature

Beatification for Jerome Lejeune? February 20, 2004

Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini has called for the opening of a cause for the beatification of the late French geneticist Jerome Lejeune.

Cardinal Angelini made his proposal during the first day of a four-day meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Lejeune was appointed by Pope John Paul as the first president of that body when it was created in 1994. The French physician died just 33 days after the appointment.

"He was a man of science who lived his Christian faith in his profession work, heroically, showing his faith with a simplicity and joy, serving life with a full devotion and complete disinterest," said Cardinal Angelini, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care. The Italian prelate then introduced Lejeune's widow, Birthe Lejeune, who gave the cardinal an emotional embrace as the audience applauded. Born in 1926 in Montrouge, Jerome Lejeune gained international fame in 1958 when he discovered the Trisomy 21 genetic defect. As he gained renown as a scholar, teacher, and researcher, he continued his work with children suffering from severe disabilities. In his later years he became an outspoken defender of human life, speaking out frequently against abortion despite the hostility of many of his medical colleagues.

During a 1997 visit to Paris for World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II made a point of visiting Lejeune's grave, paying homage to the illustrious French scientist.

Since Lejeune died in Paris, the responsibility for opening a formal cause for his beatification lies in the hands of that city's Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

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