Pro-Life Hero Jérôme Lejeune, Down Syndrome Pioneer, Moves Toward Sainthood

1962 photo of Professor Jérôme Lejeune, then director of the human genetics department a
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ROME — Pope Francis has advanced the cause for the canonization of Jérôme Lejeune, a French pro-life scientist best known for his groundbreaking work on Down syndrome.

Lejeune dedicated his research to understanding the mystery of Down syndrome and is recognized for discovering its genetic cause linked to chromosomal abnormalities and for defending the lives of unborn children with the condition.

On Thursday, the pope authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree advancing his cause for canonization, underscoring Lejeune’s “heroic virtues.”

In 1958, Lejeune discovered the existence of an extra chromosome on the 21st pair during a study of the chromosomes of a child with what was then known as Mongolism. This was the first time a link had been found between an intellectual disability and a chromosomal anomaly; the condition is now known as Down syndrome or trisomy 21.

“Although the results of his research should have helped medicine to advance toward a cure, they are often used to identify children carrying these diseases as early as possible, usually with the aim of terminating pregnancy,” the Jerome Lejeune Foundation states on its website.

“As soon as the pro-abortion laws were drafted in western countries, Lejeune began advocating for the protection of the unborn with Down syndrome: he gave hundreds of conferences and interviews across the globe in defense of life,” it adds.

Dr. Lejeune was a staunch defender not only of those with Down syndrome, but of all human beings.

“We need to be clear: The quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members,” Lejeune said. “There is no other criterion.”

“The enemies of life know that to destroy Christian civilization, they must first destroy the family at its weakest point – the child,” he said. “And among the weakest, they must choose the least protected of all – the child who has never been seen; the child who is not yet known or loved in the usual meaning of the word; who has not yet seen the light of day; who cannot even cry out in distress.”

In February 1994, Pope St. John Paul II appointed Jérôme Lejeune as the first president of the newly formed Pontifical Academy for Life.

Lejeune died two months after his appointment. He was a husband and father of five children.


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