VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - God sees embryos as "full and complete" humans, Pope Benedict said on Wednesday in an address that firmly underlined the Roman Catholic Church's stance against abortion and scientific research on embryos.
"The loving eyes of God look on the human being, considered full and complete at its beginning," Benedict said in his weekly address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Quoting Psalm 139, Benedict said the Bible teaches that God already recognises the embryo as a complete human. That view is the basis for the Church teaching that aborting or manipulating these embryos amounts to murder.
In Psalm 139, the psalmist says to God: "Thou didst see my limbs unformed in the womb, and in thy book they are all recorded."
"It is extremely powerful, the idea in this psalm, that in this 'unformed' embryo God already sees the whole future," Benedict said.
"In the Lord's book of life, the days that this creature will live and will fill with works during his time on earth are already written."
Benedict has already weighed into an Italian debate on abortion ahead of a general election in April, publicly supporting a pro-life group that right-wing Health Minister Francesco Storace wants to have access to counselling centres advising women seeking to terminate pregnancy.
The Pontiff also raised the theme in his Christmas Eve mass on Saturday, saying the love of God shines on each child, "even on those still unborn".
As well as being against abortion in all cases, the Church opposes stem-cell research which extracts useful cells from unused embryos left over from fertility treatments.
The United States Congress is debating whether to expand federal funding for this kind of research, which scientists say could provide cures to many debilitating diseases.