Former Irish president urges Catholic Church to embrace equality

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Catholic women have urged Pope Francis to give women a greater voice in Catholic Church decision-making, warning they are leaving the church in droves because its all-male leadership refuses to change their entrenched second-class status.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese, an outspoken advocate for women’s ordination and gay rights, was the keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day conference that was moved off Vatican territory this year because a cardinal declined to sponsor it due to Ms McAleese’s participation.

In her speech, delivered at the Rome headquarters of Francis’ Jesuit order, Ms McAleese said: “The Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the toxic virus of misogyny.

“Its leadership has never sought a cure for that virus though the cure is freely available.

“Its name is equality.”