The Women's Ordination Conference expressed its disappointment Monday with Pope Francis for keeping the door closed to women's ordination into the priesthood.

The WOC "is deeply discouraged to learn of Pope Francis' remarks regarding women's ordination," Executive Director Erin Saiz Hanna said in a communique.

"We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more ...," the pontiff said in response to a question during a wide-ranging session with reporters on the papal plane en route back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro.

"But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says 'no,' Pope John Paul said so with a formula that was definitive. That door is closed," Francis said.

"Pope Francis' cop-out rationale illustrates a very selective theology: to blame a previous pope for his stance on women priests, and then in the very same interview contradict his predecessors by acknowledging an open understanding for gay priests," Saiz Hanna said.

She suggested that instead of looking to the response of John Paul II, "Pope Francis could have looked to a variety of sources."

The pope "could have quoted the Vatican's own Pontifical Biblical Commission that concluded in 1976 that there is no valid scriptural or theological reason for denying ordination to women," Saiz Hanna said.

About 100 women have been ordained as Catholic priests in the world and three-fourths of that clergy, which is not acknowledged by the church, live in the United States, according to the WOC.

"The church is made up of the people of God and Pope Francis could have looked to the majority of Catholics who support the ordination of women, recognize that women are created in God's image, and strongly believe with God a door is always open," Saiz Hanna said. EFE