For Immediate International Release

Miriam Duignan (UK): +44.7970 926910; m_duignan@hotmail.com

Erin Saiz Hanna (USA): +1.401.588.0457; ehanna@womensordination.org

Therese Koturbash (Canada): +1.204.648.5720; t.m.koturbash@gmail.com

Alicja Baranowska (Poland/Belgium): kaplanstwokobiet@wp.eu

Rome, Italy: Today, May 22, the Church marks the 20th anniversary of ‘the papal no’ -- the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis also known as Pope John Paul II’s attempt to categorically exclude women from priesthood and ban discussion about it.

At a press conference held in Rome this morning, the international umbrella group Women’s Ordination Worldwide issued a joint statement as they prepared to deliver hundreds of letters to Pope Francis from ordinary Catholics around the globe who want an end to the ban. Many letters are from women called to priesthood. Others are from people saying they are frustrated with a Church whose leaders are complicit in the oppression of women because of the ban. 

Erin Saiz Hanna, Executive Director of the U.S. Women’s Ordination Conference pointed out, “For 20 years now Catholics have been forbidden from discussing women’s leadership. For 20 years, employees at Catholic institutions have risked job security if they talk about women’s ordination.” She added, “For an even longer time, Catholic women called to priesthood have had door after door slammed in their faces. People around the world are deprived of sacraments only because male Church leaders reject the women God is calling. God doesn't reject them; male Church leaders do. This is wrong.” 

Miriam Duignan from the academic organisation womenpriests.org said that, "It's true that Pope Francis is portraying a new image of the Church being open to all and that he is trying to shake off the judgements and restrictions of the past. But despite this openness that's exemplified for instance by his response to questions about gay men in priesthood, 'Who am I to judge?, Francis holds fast to the old party line that says 'women in priesthood is not open to discussion. It is reserved for men alone. Women are not welcome.' The community of faith recognises the women who are called. How long do women have to wait to be considered equal and worthy of receiving the same welcome by the official Church as men?" 

According to Poland’s Alicja Baranowska, "The Church should not be afraid to re-examine customs – even those with deep historical roots – when they no longer communicate the Gospel. A male only priesthood does not communicate Gospel. It goes against the clear message that there is `neither male nor female in Christ`. It goes against so much evidence of women's leadership in the early Church. It goes against the teaching of Jesus and his inclusion of women in his mission and legacy.”

“As internationally loved as Pope Francis is, the status of women in the Catholic Church is his blind spot,” said Kate Conmy of the U.S. Women’s Ordination Conference. “If the Church has confidence in exclusion, it makes no sense that discussion about including women as priests should be banned. A refusal to dialogue gives away the fact that there is no strong theology to support the Vatican’s position.”

WOW encourages Pope Francis to stop making Jesus the Vatican’s partner in gender discrimination. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is an outdated, fallible and painful document created by his predecessors to diminish the leadership of women.  We are asking Pope Francis to open the doors of dialogue to talk with us about women’s ordination.   

For the full statement, go to www.womensordinationworldwide.org