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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 16:40 GMT
Vatican stands firm on women priests
Gisela Forster (L) and Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger
The women were ordained on the Danube
The Vatican has upheld its decision to excommunicate seven women ordained as priests last year by a controversial cleric.

A decree from the Vatican watchdog - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - said the women's appeal was rejected because of the "gravity of the offences committed".

The penalty... is... necessary... to guide the consciences of the faithful

Vatican
It said the decision had the approval of Pope John Paul II himself.

The ordination of the seven - on a boat on the River Danube in June - was witnessed by 300 people.

However the Roman Catholic Church does not allow women to serve as priests.

According to the decree, the excommunication order can now only be overturned by the Pope if the women repent and "find again the road of conversion".

'Obstinacy'

The women - from Germany, Austria and the United State - were ordained at a ceremony led by Argentine Bishop Romulo Antonio Braschi, whom the Vatican considers the founder of a schismatic, or breakaway, community.

In their appeal, the women sought clarification of what constituted "schismatic" conduct, and on passages in the Bible about the equality of women.

The Congregation said on Monday the excommunication had been forced by the "schismatic nature" of the ordination.

It also condemned the women for "rejecting formally and with obstinacy" the Roman Catholic doctrine on women priests.

The seven women were in effect cast out of the Church and barred from taking part in its rites in August.

One of the women, Dagmar Braun Celeste, has said that by taking part in the ceremony she was trying to send a message that the time had come to admit women into the Roman Catholic clergy.

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