Fr. Tomi Thomas, a former director-general of the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) and Indian Missionary Society priest, has been appointed a member of Vatican’s bio-ethics advisory board by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis on June 13 appointed 45 new members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, having eliminated all of the Academy’s members earlier this year. He also appointed five prominent officials of the old Pontifical Academy as “honorary members.”
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.
Pope Francis has revised the statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life and encouraged a new approach that gives less direct attention to the “culture of life” issues that has previously been the focus of the Academy. Because there had been no expiration date for the terms of members, the Pontiff chose to end all memberships and re-appoint some members to a new roster.
Three of the new members are from Asia, one from India and two from Japan. Fr. Tomi Thomas 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 with a vision to provide holistic health for all – physical, mental, social and spiritual.
The other two Asian members are Professor Etsuko Akiba and Professor Shinya Yamanaka, both from Japan. Professor Yamanaka is 2012 Nobel Laureate in Medicine. He is Director and Professor at the Center for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University, and a Professor at the Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences at Kyoto University.
Professor Akiba is a Professor of Law in the Department of Economics at the University of Toyama. The most outspoken members of the Pontifical Academy were missing from the list of appointments announced by the Vatican on June 13. At least one new member—Nigel Biggar, an Oxford theologian—has suggested that abortion should be legal during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy.
The Pontifical Academy for Life had been forced to postpone its annual assembly earlier this year because of the lack of members. The assembly will now be held in October. The topic for the meeting has also been changed: from a discussion of Donum Vitae, the Vatican’s statement on artificial reproduction, to a broader forum on “new responsibilities in the technological era.”
Rev. Dr. Tomi Thomas IMS, the former Director-General of the Catholic Health Association of India, has been appointed a member of Pontifical Academy for Life for five years by Holy Father Pope Francis. The Pontifical Academy for Life was established by Pope St. John Paul II for the promotion and defense of human life. Fr. Tomi was one among the three of the new members from Asia and the other two from Japan. It is a proud moment for the Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) and its Member Institutions. Fr. Tomi Thomas serves the community as an Associate Pastor at St. Mathew’s Church, works in Stamford, CT.