On November 1, 2016 Pope Francis once again signaled that the door to women’s ordination in the Catholic Church is permanently closed. He reiterated his previous statements on women’s ordination, stating, “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains.” Pope Francis made the comments during a press conference on the papal plane en route to Rome from Sweden. The pope had been visiting the country for the commemoration of the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, where he met with Lutheran and Catholic leaders.
The pope’s statement echoes previous declarations he has made on the subject of women’s ordination. On September 28, 2015, on his flight to Rome from the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Pope Francis stated, “Women priests -- that cannot be done…Pope St. John Paul II -- after long, long discussions, long reflections -- said it clearly." At the time, he emphasized that the rule on women’s ordination does not originate from the misconception of a patriarchal Church that seeks to exclude and diminish the role of women, “Look,” he said, “in the church, women are more important than men because the church is woman.”
He pointed to the spousal mystery of the Church and the role of the Madonna as crucial for understanding women and their unique role in the Church. In response to the question posed to him on the flight from Sweden, Pope Francis noted that the role of women may be more clearly and meaningfully understood when viewed through a Marian perspective. He spoke of the two dimensions of Catholic ecclesiology: “The Petrine dimension, which is from the Apostle Peter, and the Apostolic College, which is the pastoral activity of the bishops, as well as the Marian dimension, which is the feminine dimension of the Church.” Pope Francis noted that exploring the role of women in the Church through this feminine dimension may help illumine the unique role women are called to play.
He went on to acknowledge, “I ask myself: who is most important in theology and in the mysticism of the Church: the apostles or Mary on the day of Pentecost? It's Mary!” The unique and formidable call of women in the Catholic Church may be furthered by cultivating a theology of women, in which Francis has previously admitted there is a “lack of development.” Still, he asserts, “You cannot be limited to the fact of being an altar server or the president of Caritas, the catechist… No! It must be more, but profoundly more, also mystically more.”