The Catholic Church will not ordain women priests, Pope Francis declared last week.

Pope Francis, aboard the papal plane, stated in a press conference the issue of women priests has already been decided, while also pointing clearly to the critical role women played in the Catholic Church. He said St. John Paul II, already decided on the ordination of women and his word was final.

The question of women priests was asked during Pope Francis’ flight back to Rome from attending the Lutheran-Catholic 500th Anniversary Reformation Commemoration. During the session, he participated alongside other religious leaders including Antje Jackelén the first female Lutheran Archbishop in Sweden.

The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus only chose men to be apostles.

On the contrary, he added the crucial role women played in the Catholic faith, more so from a “Marian dimension.” The feminine dimension is one of the two dimensions in Catholic ecclesiology, the other being the “Petrine dimension.” Pope Francis also pointed out that the woman is the Holy Mother Church, indicating the spousal mystery of the church in relation to Jesus Christ. He also went further to point out the most influential figure in theology and mysticism of the church was Mary.

Pope Francis also stated the Church cannot exist without this dimension since the church itself is feminine.

He did express women “can do so many things better than men, even in the dogmatic field,” but it is still a separate dimension (the Petrine dimension) in terms of the church and priesthood.

At the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis was clear on the issue of women priests while still emphasizing the importance of women in the church.

In another conference while returning from Rio de Janeiro in 2013, the same question asked and he answered, “the Church has spoken and says, ‘No.’

He also stated the woman’s theology lacked development, which could be better developed. He rationally thought that one cannot simply be limited to one aspect and it surely must be more to it, perhaps even mystical.

In 2015 returning from the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the Pope again answered women priest “cannot be done,” and the theology of women needs to “move ahead.”

The issue of female ordination was one of the concerns surrounding the Pope’s trip to Sweden, in addition to the path of communion between the two denominations, Lutherans, and Catholics. Moreover, other social and ethical issues were the points of division among the two denominations like homosexuality and abortion were discussed as well. All with the intention to bridge Lutheranism and Catholicism.

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