Pope Francis isn’t likely to rescind the ban on female priests in the near future. The pontiff expressed his doubts about the Holy See ever reconsidering the possibility of females becoming ordained Roman Catholic ministers.
In his most direct remark about the issue, the Pontiff has ruled out the possibility of women ever serving as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope said he believes the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women becoming priests is most likely forever, and won’t be lifted ever. He was speaking to a group of reporters while on a plane that was ferrying him back to Rome from Sweden. The Pope has made it a routine to hold such informal press conferences during his journeys.
Pope Francis had visited Sweden to commemorate the year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, reported the New York Times. Interestingly, he was greeted at the ecumenical church service by the primate of the Church of Sweden, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, who needless to say, is a woman.
Incidentally, Pope Francis hasn’t changed his opinion on the matter. He has always believed that the subject is pretty much a closed chapter. But there have been several debates in favor of women holding the religious post and conducting ceremonies. A majority of the discussions involved hope that Pope Francis might overturn the decision.
Quite a few religious experts have supported their statements with statistics about the acute shortage and steady decline in the number of priests around the world, reported the Guardian. Hundreds, if not thousands, of posts are lying vacant for want of clergymen. Moreover, there are many women who wish they could take up the holy profession and serve their fellow brethren, but are unable to do so because of the restrictive practices of the Church.
Surprisingly, despite being clear on the matter, he had established a commission to study whether women could be ordained as deacons. While deacons can’t celebrate Mass, they can conduct many other rituals, including baptisms, wakes, and funeral services, apart from preaching and teaching in the name of the Church, reported Reuters. Needless to add, such actions raised hopes about women eventually getting ordained. Moreover, many religious experts believed it was the Pope’s way of trying to get women more intricately involved in the Church’s activities.
Pope Francis says that women will never serve as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. pic.twitter.com/82NKkNFhh0— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 1, 2016
But when a Swedish journalist probed the Pontiff on the matter, Francis appeared quite clear on his stand, and reiterated that it was Saint Pope John Paul II who had made it absolutely clear that the ban would be eternal.
“On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last word is clear. Saint Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands.”
Pope Francis was referring to the apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, written in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. In the letter, the late Pope, who has been canonized, clarified that ordaining women as priests wasn’t possible. He justified the Holy See’s stand by noting that it was Jesus himself who made the decision. Since the Savior chose only men as his apostles, the office of the Catholic Church cannot appoint women as priests.
Never say never ....— Father Richard (@educationpriest) November 1, 2016
Pope Francis confirms finality of ban on ordaining women priests | National Catholic Reporter https://t.co/4BTLoRKQFj
Not giving up, the Swedish journalist followed up his earlier question by referring to Archbishop Jackelen, and questioned if it was realistically possible to see female priests in the near future,
“But for ever, for ever? Never, never?”
Pope Francis attempted to end the discussion by noting the following.
“If we read carefully the declaration by St John Paul II, it is going in that direction.”
As expected, the Pontiff’s words haven’t gone down well with proponents of women priests. The Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), a group that promotes a female priesthood even proclaimed that “Patriarchy Will Not Have the Last Word.” The group added that it was “deeply disappointed” by the Pope’s comments, and claimed the document he referred to was “outdated, fallible and painful.”
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