Among seven Irish protesters detained after a demonstration at the Vatican calling for the inclusion of women in the church

Seven demonstrators, including an Irish woman, were arrested by police in Rome over their protest at the Vatican, which called for the inclusion of women at all levels of the Catholic Church.

Iriam Duignan joined six other women in St. Peter’s Square yesterday to draw attention to the absence of any female presence at a consistory – a closed-door gathering of the cardinals of the Church – called by Pope Francis.

The seven held up parasols with messages like “ordained women” and “sexism is a mortal sin” as the world’s cardinals arrived for the first of their two-day extraordinary assembly.

Ms Duignan, a spokeswoman for the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research in the UK, said she hoped the protest would inspire the collective conscience of church leadership to open its doors to women who yearn to be heard and to their church as equals to serve in Christ.

“I have chosen to be present in the Consistory as a member of Women’s Ordination Worldwide to help shed light on the Vatican’s cover-up of the history of the founding role and leadership of women in the early centuries of the Church,” said Frau Duignan.

This was announced by the London-based advocate for the ordination of women Irish Independent that veteran theologians, including some in the Vatican, have concluded “that there is no biblical justification for the banishment of women; it is a choice and it can and must be changed”.

She added: “Police in Rome were encouraged to keep us out of sight and to hide our words and testimony from the world.”

Though they greeted scores of cardinals as the prelates passed through the Vatican gates, most of the senior clergy “clearly did not want to handle or engage with the messages on our red parasols.”

“The Vatican is desperate that activists will draw attention to their discrimination against women and therefore choose to intimidate anyone who dares to publicly challenge them,” Ms. Duignan said.

According to Ms Duignan, the small group of protesters were quickly pushed out of sight by a “huge police presence” of 20 officers.

However, an Italian prelate congratulated Ms. Duignan upon learning the protest was for the inclusion and ordination of women.

Referring to the call in many recent synod reports for women’s equal participation at all levels of the church, including ordination, Ms. Duignan said: “People see that such an influential institution cannot operate with an all-male leadership that bans women having a say in any of its policies or teachings.”

When asked about the decline in the number of priests in the Irish Church, she said: “It is evident that it is an injustice to all Catholics to deny women the opportunity to hold this office in the face of a desperate shortage of priests.”

The seven women were released from police custody after four hours. They face charges and a court hearing.

Their umbrellas were confiscated as evidence.

The Vatican and the police in Rome have been asked to comment. Among seven Irish protesters detained after a demonstration at the Vatican calling for the inclusion of women in the church

Fry Electronics Team

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