Pope John Paul II, adamantly opposed to women priests but determined to inspire laymen and women to do more in the church, invited a girl to join him Sunday in addressing thousands from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
“Perhaps it’s the first time that a little lady has spoken from this window” where the pope appears on Sundays, the pontiff joked to the crowd.
The girl was identified only by her first name, Gioia, and her age was not given. She and a young boy, who didn’t speak, flanked the pope. Each let loose a dove, and the girl, who appeared to be about 11, read a speech urging young people to push for world peace. The children were from a Rome parish.
The pope has said many times that lay Catholics should take a more visible role in the church. However, he steadfastly has resisted calls to let women become priests. The church’s long-standing argument essentially is that Christ was male and wanted his priests to be male, and the church can’t overrule that.