Catholic women fight for priesthood: Ordination movement gaining ground, inspired by changes in Anglican church

THOSE Church of England defectors who thought that embracing Roman Catholicism would spare them the prospect of Sunday sermons from women priests may yet have cause to regret their decision.

Encouraged by their Anglican counterparts, Roman Catholic women are now staking their own highly symbolic claim for sexual equality.

Yesterday, a group called Catholic Women's Ordination surrounded Westminster Cathedral holding pieces of purple cloth to symbolise a shroud. They then stood motionless and silent for seven minutes - one minute for each sacrament they are prevented from administering.

Ianthe Pratt, one of the protesters, said: 'Purple signifies mourning - our mourning for women's gifts which have been lost to the church for the last 2,000 years.'

This sort of vigil will continue at Westminster Cathedral on a weekly basis until the end of the year.

Mrs Pratt said that the movement was gaining momentum in Canada and the United States where 7,000 priests had joined a group called Priests for Equality.

Women for Ordination, which has 500 members, has drawn much encouragement from the Anglican Church's stance on women. The group has sent delegations to the recent ordinations of women priests at Bristol, St Paul's in London and Oxford.

Mrs Pratt said: 'I think it is bound to happen in the Roman Catholic church too, eventually. The Vatican is not always right. It decreed that slavery was right in my grandmother's day.'

She went on: 'There are many strands to Roman Catholicism now. You may ask the question 'is the Pope a Catholic'? The answer is yes, but he has only one view.'

(Photograph omitted)