ROME – A former Vatican ambassador to the United Kingdom says the fact women can’t be ordained to the priesthood is “intolerable.”

Spanish Archbishop Pablo Puente, 88, was speaking Aug. 25 during a Mass in honor of Ginés de la Jara, patron of the local fishermen brotherhood, in the Spanish coastal region of Cantabria.

“We cannot tolerate this flagrant discrimination against women by the Church,” Puente is reported to have said.

The archbishop’s comments were revealed on Twitter by the president of Cantabria, Miguel Ángel Revilla, who said that “in the middle” of Mass, Puente “grabbed the microphone and said: ‘Tomorrow, a very strong letter requesting that with urgency women be invested as priests will be sent to His Holiness, the Pope.’”

Afterwards, the politician said, “a good portion” of the nearly 1,000 people who attended the Mass applauded.

Puente served as apostolic nuncio to Great Britain from 1997 to 2004 and resigned at the age of 73, two years before the mandatory age of retirement. He was never given another official position.

Before serving in the UK, Puente served as papal representative to Lebanon from 1989 to 1997, where his outreach to various militia groups and heads of Islamic political parties reportedly helped end the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war.

Pope Francis is on record as being opposed to the ordination of women.

The pontiff said that his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, “was clear and closed the door” to women becoming priests, explaining “you can’t do anything because dogmatically it doesn’t go.”

“I won’t turn” on the Polish pope’s decision. “It was a serious thing, not capricious.”

John Paul II “closed the door” to female priests with his 1994 letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

Earlier this year, speaking to the assembly of 850 superiors of women’s religious congregations in Rome, Francis referred to the possibility of ordaining female deacons. In 2016, after a meeting with the same group, he had created a commission to study the historical presence of deaconesses in the Church.

On this, he said that “we walk on a solid just path, the way of revelation; We cannot walk a different road … that alters revelation and dogmatic expressions.”

“In regard to the diaconate we must see what was there at the beginning of revelation, if there was something, let it grow and it arrives, but if there was not, if the Lord didn’t want a sacramental ministry for women, it can’t go forward,” Francis said. “For this reason, we go to history and to dogma.”

“We are Catholics,” he said, “but if anyone wants to found another church they are free [to do so].”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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