The Catholic Church's ban on women priests will stand forever, Pope Francis said Tuesday.
The pontiff made the declaration in response to a female reporter asking if he thought women would one day serve as Catholic priests and bishops, noting the head of the Lutheran Church whom Francis met on his trip to Sweden is a woman.
"St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands," Francis said during a news conference aboard the papal plane on the flight back to Rome, according to Reuters.
The reporter then asked "Forever, forever? Never, never?"
"If we read carefully the declaration by St. John Paul II, it is going in that direction," the pope responded.
Pope John Paul II, in an Apostolic letter written in 1994, wrote that despite the church's long history of male-only priests, "in some places it is nonetheless considered open to debate." Not so, wrote the pope who died in 2005 and was canonized a saint in 2014.
"Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren, I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful," John Paul II wrote.