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The smoke billowing into the Rome sky was neither white, nor black, but pink – to back the argument in favour of women being able to be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church.

A group of several Catholic women – from Britain, America and Australia – gathered in Rome to protest against the continued exclusion of women from the priesthood.

The smoke they let off from small flares mimicked the puffs that will emerge from the Sistine Chapel chimney indicating whether cardinals have decided on a new pope.

“The Catholic church should be a healthy and vibrant place with equality, with both men and women called to the priesthood. Jesus did not exclude women. Jesus encouraged women and actively sought to include them,” said Miriam Duignan, Communications coordinator of the association ‘Women can be priests’. “So why do the cardinals who are supposed to represent Jesus, make a point of actively excluding women, of telling them to be quiet? And of criminalising anybody that speaks out in favour of women priests?”

The Women’s Ordination Conference has campaigned for female Catholic priests for over 30 years. But there is little sign among the frontrunners for pope that the issue will become a priority.

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