August 26, 2013
CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM BRAZIL – While the Church will not ordain women as priests, the Church must do more to explain the importance of women in the Church, said Pope Francis.

The Catholic Church needs a theology that explains how it would be impossible for the Church to live up to its role as mother and bride without the contribution of women, he told reporters on his flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome.

"It is not enough to have altar girls, women readers or women as the president of Caritas," he said. "Women in the Church are more important than bishops and priests," just like "Mary is more important than the apostles."

As for the possibility of the Catholic Church ordaining women priests, Pope Francis said, "the Church has spoken and said, 'no,'" and the form in which Blessed John Paul II declared that was "a definitive formula."

Blessed John Paul said that because Jesus chose only men as his disciples, the Church is not able to ordain women.

On another topic, Pope Francis said he wanted to make it clear that divorced Catholics can receive the sacraments.

The problems begin when they marry a second time without having their first union annulled.

The annulment process needs to be reformed and streamlined, he said. But more importantly the Catholic Church needs to get serious about developing a comprehensive pastoral program for the family.

Pope Francis also mentioned the practice of Orthodox churches that in some cases allow a second marriage, giving the impression that the Catholic practice could undergo modification.

The Orthodox "follow the theology of 'oikonomia' (economy or stewardship), as they call it, and give a second possibility; they permit" a second marriage, he said.

Unlike an annulment, which declares that a union was invalid from the beginning, the Orthodox decree does not question the initial validity of a sacramental marriage. Nor does it dissolve a marriage.

Rather, the Orthodox describe it as a recognition that a marriage has ended because of the failure or sin of one or both spouses.

"Divorce is seen as an exceptional but necessary concession to human sin," wrote Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia.