An excommunicated female priest decked out in her liturgical robes was detained by Italian police for demonstrating at the Vatican on Thursday, where she called on the Catholic Church to rethink its policy on ordaining women.
Unfurling a red and white banner reading "Women Priests are Here", Janice Sevre-Duszynska said she wanted to draw attention to the lack of a voice for women as cardinals gather at the Vatican to choose former pope Benedict XVI's successor.
"As the cardinals meet for their conclave to elect the new pope, women are being ordained around the world!" said Sevre-Duszynska, a member of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, decked out in an ivory, handmade alb and green stole.
"There are already 150 female priests in the world. The people are ready for change," she said in a quick interview with AFP in front of St. Peter's Basilica, before being taken away in a police car.
Officers said they were questioning her "right to wear those vestments".
Sevre-Duszynska, an American who lives in Kentucky, was ordained by a female bishop and has been leading mass for four years -- though she and all other female priests have been excommunicated by the Vatican.
"The huge decision as to who will lead the world's Catholics is being made among men alone, which is a mockery. Not hearing the opinions of half of the world is like a slap in the face," she said.
"Young people are leaving the Church in droves because they refuse to accept women priests. We ask our brother priests to publicly speak out for women priests," she added.
Sevre-Duszynska said she didn't have much hope that this conclave would change much for women, but urged supporters to make their voices heard in a bid to influence policy.
"For a new pope who opens the way to the ordination of female priests, the Holy Spirit would have to appear here herself for the big shake-up. Here's hoping," she said.