Pope Francis Reaffirms Ban on Women as Priests
Pope Francis said the ban on women being ordained as priests will likely last forever, according to journalists aboard a flight with the pope Tuesday.
Francis was traveling to Rome from Sweden, where he went to mark the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. While there, he met with Lutheran Archbishop Antje Jackelen of Uppsala, a woman and the primate of the Church of Sweden.
On the plane, a Swedish journalist referenced the archbishop and asked the pope whether women might be able to serve as Catholic priests in coming decades.
"On the ordination of women in the Catholic church, the last word is clear," Francis said, citing Pope John Paul II's 1994 letter banning women from the priesthood. "It was given by St. John Paul II and this remains."
"But really forever?" the journalist asked. "Never?"
He replied: "If we read carefully the declaration made by St. John Paul II, it goes in that direction."
Francis went on to say women do "many other things better than men," emphasizing Jesus Christ's mother Mary and the "feminine dimension of the church."
The pope's statements are likely a relief for traditional Catholics, many of whom have accused him of confusing statements on matters of faith.
Francis' statement reaffirms his 2013 declaration that women can never become priests. Some advocates, however, thought the church's resolve might be softening after the pope created a commission in August to study whether women could be ordained as deacons.
Deacons can perform many of the same duties as priests, including preaching at Mass and officiating weddings and baptisms. Though they are currently banned from doing so, women could serve as deacons in the early centuries of the church.
"If women can be ordained as deacons, then this is going to weaken — not destroy — but weaken significantly the argument that women absolutely are incapable of being ordained as priests," Boston College theologian James Bretzke said in May when the pope promised to create the commission. "So this is opening more than a crack in the door."
About 6 in 10 American Catholics think the church should allow women to become priests, according to a 2015 Pew survey. Many Protestant denominations have allowed women to serve as priests and bishops for decades.