Protesters block a street outside Saint Matthew's Cathedral in Washington during Pope Francis' prayer meeting with U.S. bishops, Sept. 23, 2015.
Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Renegade female priests hold peaceful protest amid Pope Francis’ visit

WASHINGTON — A half-dozen protesters demanding the ordination of women priests staged a “lie-in” just before Pope Francis arrived at a Washington church for a Mass with U.S. bishops.

The civil disobedience, organized by the renegade Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, caused a small disturbance as police rushed in to clear the area of spectators.

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The demonstrators were still on the ground, with banners draped across their bodies, when the pope arrived at the Cathedral of St. Matthew fresh from his meeting with President Obama at the White House.

A spokeswoman for the group said they were issued tickets and held on the corner until the pope left the event and headed off to the next one, the canonization of missionary Junipero Serra.

There is no indication the pontiff was aware of the small protest unfolding peacefully across the street as he climbed and descended the cathedral steps to cheers from hundreds of fans lining the streets.

Most of those filling the streets were ardent Francis fans anxious for even a glimpse of his white robes, but the women priests are disappointed with the popular pontiff who has said “the door is closed” on the subject of women priests.

“He has not moved an inch,” said Maria Eitz, who was ordained three years ago and traveled to San Francisco for the protest.

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“He is a good man and he is a kind man and he stands up for the poor and that is wonderful, but the poor include women and this pope does not understand women. He has called women flowers and strawberries. We are much more than flowers and strawberries.”

Down the street, spectator Kathy Diaz, who came from Florida to be part of the pope’s first U.S. visit, watched the protesters as they played a cat-and-mouse game with police trying to keep the crosswalks clear.

Diaz said she would welcome female priests but doesn’t think it will happen.

“The Bible says the priests have to be men, and the pope has to follow the Bible,” she said.

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