Pope Francis, during a trip back to Rome from Sweden, while speaking to reporters in the freewheeling news conference that has become a tradition of his return flights from trips abroad said that the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women becoming priests is forever and will never be changed.
He made the statement when a Swedish female reporter noted that the head of the Lutheran Church who welcomed him in Sweden was a woman, and then asked if he thought the Catholic Church could allow women to be ordained as ministers in coming decades.
“St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands,” Francis said.
Francis was referring to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the door on a female priesthood. The Vatican says this teaching is an infallible part of Catholic tradition.
The reporter then pressed the pope, asking: “But forever, forever? Never, never?”
Francis responded: “If we read carefully the declaration by St. John Paul II, it is going in that direction.”
Francis has previously said that the door to women’s ordination is closed, but proponents of a female priesthood are hoping that a future pope might overturn the decision, particularly because of the shortage of priests around the world.
Reacting to the Pope’s statement, The Women’s Ordination Conference, a group that promotes a female priesthood, said in a statement that the body was disappointed in the Pope’s statement describing the document the Pope referred to as “outdated, fallible and painful”. It further said that “Patriarchy Will Not Have the Last Word”.