Pope Francis's comments on women deacons show the Catholic Church is a "men's church," according to the organization representing over 1,000 Irish priests.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) expressed “major disappointment” over the pontiff’s comments indicating the church has no current plans to ordain women deacons.

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The pope said that the commission he appointed in 2016 could not reach a consensus on whether women who served as deacons in the early Church were ordained in the same way as male deacons.

Pope Francis addresses reporters during a flight returning from Skopje to Rome, at the end of the Pope's three-day apostolic journey in Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia, on May 7, 2019. Image: Getty

Pope Francis addresses reporters during a flight returning from Skopje to Rome, at the end of the Pope's three-day apostolic journey in Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia, on May 7, 2019. Image: Getty

Historical documents evaluated by the commission giving the formulas for the ordination of women deacons showed they “are not the same as for men’s diaconal ordination,” he said, adding that this was “fundamental.”

He said the issue of women deacons was divided and that the commission could go no further.

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Pope Francis made the remarks while on the papal flight back to Rome after his three-day visit to Bulgaria and Macedonia.

The ACP accused the Pope of "kicking can down a timeless road" on female deacons and that it appears “men are more worthy than women” in the eye of the official church.

"We though Francis was different"

“We had come to expect reactions like this from previous popes, but we thought Francis was different, and consequently our disappointment is greater.”

The ACP said “the equality of women is critical for the credibility and the future of the church. Introducing women deacons is such a minimalist step that if he cannot move on that, there is little or no prospect of any real movement towards equality.”

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The comments of the pope “send all the wrong messages about women to women and men. It confirms that women are not good enough and that in the eyes of the ‘official’ churchmen are more worthy than women.”

The pope’s comments confirmed that “the official institutional church is a men’s church” and “that to be a full member of the church, exercising all the privileges, you have to be a man,” the ACP said.

Pope Francis waves to the faithfull as he arrives to lead the Holy Mass at Phoenix Park in Dublin on August 26, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. Image: Getty

Pope Francis waves to the faithfull as he arrives to lead the Holy Mass at Phoenix Park in Dublin on August 26, 2018, during his visit to Ireland to attend the 2018 World Meeting of Families. Image: Getty

It said the comments confirmed “that the church is a structure built by men for men”, that it “continues to be a clerical hierarchical patriarchy” and “that injustice is built into the heart of the church.”

The group said it was “an enormous blow to reforming the church and bringing it into the 21st century.”

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In his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul wrote that “the church has no authority whatsoever” to ordain women.

In October 1995, then Dean of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, said Ordinatio Sacerdotalis had been “set forth infallibly.”

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The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) expressed “major disappointment” over Pope Francis's comments indicating the church has no current plans to ordain women deacons.Getty Images