Women stage pink smoke protest in Rome as men-only conclave begins
By Catherine Hornby
ROME (Reuters) - Protesters demanding a greater role for women in the Roman Catholic Church set off a pink smoke flare on a hill above the Vatican on Tuesday as the men-only conclave that will choose the next pope began.
Mimicking traditional smoke signals from the Sistine Chapel - white for a new pontiff and black for an inconclusive vote - the women also wore pink clothes and "Ordain Women" badges.
Some women argue that they already play an important role in the Church, teaching and caring for young Catholics and doing much of its missionary work, while others say exclusion from senior roles and the ban on women's ordination is out dated.
"The current old boys' club has left our Church reeling from scandal, abuse, sexism and oppression," said director of the Women's Ordination Conference, Erin Saiz Hanna, one of a small group assembled on the Janiculum hill overlooking St. Peter's.
"The people of the Church are desperate for a leader who will be open to dialogue and embrace the gifts of women's wisdom in every level of Church governance," she said.
The Vatican says women cannot be ordained priests because Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles. Advocates of a female priesthood say Jesus was merely conforming to the customs of his times.
Tuesday's protest in Rome followed a pink smoke rally in New Orleans over the weekend, with similar events planned in cities across the United States in coming days.
Last year, Pope Benedict restated the Church's ban on women priests and said he would not tolerate disobedience by clerics on fundamental teachings. Under his leadership, the Vatican cracked down on advocates of female ordination. Continued...