On Thursday, Pope Francis held a meeting with the Catholic Church’s top theologians during which he urged them “to make the Church less masculine.”

He said this before the assembled members of the International Theological Commission (ITC), which advises the Church on teaching of Catholic doctrine, or the magisterium. It is comprised of 30 theologians appointed by the Pope to serve five-year terms.

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“The Church is woman,” Francis affirmed during the Nov. 30 meeting. “And if we do not know what a woman is, what the theology of a woman is, we will never understand what the Church is. One of the great sins we have had is to “masculinize” the Church.”

He said, however, that this cannot be thought of in a “ministerial way” — by allowing women to become priests — but by “the mystical way,” by reflecting on the feminine element within the church, or the “Marian principle.”

Pope Francis arrives to meet the members of the 2023 World Youth Day organizing committee, in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

“The Marian is more important than the Petrine,” he continued, “because there is the bride Church, the woman Church, without being masculine.”

“And you will ask me: where does this discussion lead? Not only to tell you that you should have more women here — that is one thing — but to help reflect. The Church as woman, the Church as a bride. And this is a task that I ask of you, please. To make the Church less masculine.”

Francis concluded the meeting by saying he could speak no longer due to his illness.

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