Demonstrators seeking Catholic priesthood for women return for Holy Thursday rally

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A group that has been lobbying for the ordination of women priests in the Catholic Church holds its annual rally outside  outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A group that has been lobbying for the ordination of women priests in the Catholic Church holds its annual rally outside outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Catholic women who want to be priests — and the men who support them — held their annual prayer vigil at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

As priests renewed their vows inside the cathedral on the occasion of Holy Thursday, the prayer vigil took place across the street. The group seeks to expand the priesthood, which Catholic Church doctrine now limits to men, to include women.

After 36 years of protests, they still have not given up on becoming priests, said Maureen Tate of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Womens’ Ordination Conference.

“The signs in our church are obvious, with the decrease in the number of vocations for the male priesthood as well as empty pews in the church,” Tate said. “And we think that women have many gifts to offer for a renewed church and a renewed priesthood.”

Judy Heffernan has taken part in all 36 of the vigils.

“We have come to realize it was not God’s will, and we have to keep working on this equality and unity,” she said.

Despite pushing lots of change in the church, Pope Francis has given no indication that he will open the priesthood to women.

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