ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Tuesday he believes the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women becoming priests is forever and will never be changed, in some of his most definitive remarks on the issue.
He was speaking aboard a plane taking him back to Rome from Sweden, in the freewheeling news conference with reporters that has become a tradition of his return flights from trips abroad.
A Swedish female reporter noted that the head of the Lutheran Church who welcomed him in Sweden was a woman, and then asked if he thought the Catholic Church could allow women to be ordained as ministers in coming decades.
"St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands," Francis said.
Francis was referring to a 1994 document by Pope John Paul that closed the door on a female priesthood. The Vatican says this teaching is an infallible part of Catholic tradition.
The reporter then pressed the pope, asking: "But forever, forever? Never, never?
Francis responded: "If we read carefully the declaration by St. John Paul II, it is going in that direction."