Women will never be ordained as priests in Roman Catholic Church, says Pope Francis

Pope Francis speaks to journalists on his flight back to Rome, Italy, on Nov 1, 2016.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists on his flight back to Rome, Italy, on Nov 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (NYTIMES) - The Roman Catholic Church's teaching that women cannot be ordained as priests is likely to last forever, Pope Francis said on Tuesday (Nov 1) as he flew back to Rome from Sweden.

Pope Francis went to Sweden for a historic ceremony commemorating the year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. He was embraced at an ecumenical church service by the primate of the Church of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, who is a woman.

Pope Francis has said before that the Catholic Church's ban on ordaining women as priests is a closed matter. But questions arose about his intentions after he established a commission to study whether women could be ordained as deacons. Members of the commission were named in August.

In a news conference aboard the Pope's plane, a Swedish journalist referred to Archbishop Jackelen and asked whether it was realistic to think that there might be female priests in the next few decades.

According to reporters who were on the plane, Pope Francis responded: "On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last word is clear."

He cited the apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, written in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, who has since been canonised. The letter said that ordaining women was not possible because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.

"It was given by St John Paul II, and this remains," Pope Francis said.

"Really?" the Swedish journalist asked. "Never?"

"If we read carefully the declaration made by St John Paul II, it goes in this direction," Pope Francis replied. "But women can do many other things better than men," he added, noting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is of great importance in the church's theology and spirituality.

Pope Francis' remarks are likely to cheer Catholic traditionalists, who are increasingly prone to accusing the pontiff of confusing the flock on doctrinal matters.

Many Protestant denominations have ordained women as priests and bishops for decades. Among them is the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran denomination, which decided to ordain women in 1958.