Pope Francis on Tuesday said that the Roman Catholic Church's ban on women from becoming priests is unlikely to change. "St Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this, and it stands, this stands," he said in what was his most decisive comment on the matter, Reuters reported.

The pontiff's remarks followed his visit to Sweden, where he was welcomed by the woman priest who heads the Lutheran Church. "If we read carefully the declaration by St John Paul II, it is going in that direction," Pope Francis said after a Swedish reporter brought up the question of priesthood for women.

The Pope was referring to Pope John Paul's declaration in 1994 that barred women from seeking priesthood. The Vatican believes that this teaching was an infallible part of Catholicism, and that women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus willingly chose only men as his apostles.

The Women's Ordination Conference, which promotes female priesthood, said it was "profoundly disappointed" by the Pope's remarks. In a statement titled "Patriarchy Will Not Have the Last Word", it called St John Paul II's document "outdated, fallible and painful". "The Church cannot be afraid to examine customs when they no longer communicate or resonate with the Gospel," the group said. "A church that is not open to the gifts of half of its membership is unsustainable and out-of-touch with the needs of its people."