Pope Francis Says Women Should Play Larger Role in Church

But remains silent on the matter of female ordination to the priesthood

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Women should take on greater responsibility in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Saturday in a speech to an Italian women’s group, saying that women’s “gifts of delicateness, special sensitivity and tenderness” make them uniquely poised to share pastoral roles with men.

Francis did not give any indication, however, that women might be ordained into the priesthood, despite his praise for female talent and “the indispensable contribution of women in society, in particular with their sensitivity and intuition toward the other, the weak and the unprotected,” reports the Associated Press.

Currently, women visit parishioners too frail to come to church and run prayer groups and outreach programs for the poor.

In the past, the Vatican has decisively suppressed women’s ordination movements in the U.S. and western Europe.