Europe

Vatican debated whether to invite China to organ meeting

  • Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontificial Academy of Sciences, delivers his message at a conference on 'Organ Traffiking and Transplant Tourism', held at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.  (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontificial Academy of Sciences, delivers his message at a conference on 'Organ Traffiking and Transplant Tourism', held at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Professor Huang Jiefu, Chairman of the Chinese National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, left, attends a conference on 'Organ Traffiking and Transplant Tourism', held at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. China is stepping up its efforts to convince the international medical community that it has stopped using executed prisoners as organ donors. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Professor Huang Jiefu, Chairman of the Chinese National Organ Donation and Transplantation Committee, left, attends a conference on 'Organ Traffiking and Transplant Tourism', held at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. China is stepping up its efforts to convince the international medical community that it has stopped using executed prisoners as organ donors. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

  • Delegates attend the opening session of a conference on 'Organ Traffiking and Transplant Tourism', held at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Delegates attend the opening session of a conference on 'Organ Traffiking and Transplant Tourism', held at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

Vatican officials are defending their decision to invite a Chinese delegation to an organ trafficking conference, saying the positives of encouraging reform outweighed negative criticism that the Holy See was helping whitewash Beijing's use of organs from executed prisoners.

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said there was no way to know if China is still harvesting organs from executed prisoners. But he said Tuesday the Vatican wanted to strengthen reformers in China, which has declared that the practice ended in 2015.

"We believe truly that they want to change, and that they are changing," he said.

The Chinese delegation is headed by the former vice minister of health, Dr. Huang Jiefu, who is proposing a U.N. global task force for organ trafficking oversight.