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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Wednesday made an impassioned plea for an end to the salary gap between men and women, calling it "a scandal" that Christians should decisively reject.
"Why is it taken for granted that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. The discrepancy is a pure scandal," he told tens of thousands of people at his general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Raising his voice for emphasis as he made some of his most forceful remarks on the subject to date, he said Christians should "decisively support the right to equal pay for equal work".
Women in the European Union were paid 16.4 percent less than men on average in 2013, according to statistics agency Eurostat, and United States Census Bureau data indicate women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, based on annual median salaries.
Francis has said he wants women to have a greater role in the Roman Catholic Church around the world and in the Vatican bureaucracy but he has said the "door is closed" to the possibility that women could become priests.
The Church teaches that women cannot become priests because Jesus willingly chose only men as his apostles. Advocates of a female priesthood reject this view, saying he was acting according the norms of his times.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Philip Pullella