(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed 50 new members to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, two of them from Asia. Five of them are honorary members and the rest are ordinary. Among the ordinary members are Indian Missionary Society (IMS) priest Fr Tomi Thomas, former director-general of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI), and Shinya Yamanaka, a Japanese Nobel Prize-winning stem cell researcher.
The Pontifical Academy for Life was established by Pope St. John Paul II for the promotion and defense of human life, especially regarding bioethics in line with Christian morality. All the papal appointments to the academy have expertise in different fields of biomedical sciences and related disciplines.
Fr. Tomi Thomas, a member of the Indian Missionary Society (IMS), served as director-general of CHAI from 2011 to 2016. The association, headquartered in Secunderabad, was established on 29th July 1943, by Australian nun-doctor Sr. Mary Glowrey of the Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (JMJ), in association with 16 religious sisters. Its vision is to provide holistic health for all – physical, mental, social and spiritual.
Serving over 21 million through its network of over 3500 member institutions spread across India, CHAI is one of the world’s largest not-for-profit association in health sector. Over 76,000 health professionals, including over a 1000 sister doctors are engaged in the CHAI network, that also includes 5 medical colleges and 3 universities.
The other ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life from Asia is Professor Shinya Yamanaka, Director and Professor at the Center for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University, Japan. He is also a Professor at the Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences at Kyoto University. The 54-year old researcher has been honoured with several recognitions, chief among them the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine which he shared with John Gurdon for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells.