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Religious author Lynda Telford exclusively told Express.co.uk that Francis’ decision to “modernise” Catholicism, ensuring it becomes a more widely held belief, would “horrify” former pontiff Pope Benedict and his traditionalist cronies. This week, Francis formally changed Roman Catholic Church legislation, which will now allow women to administer communion and serve at the altar. He did, however, stress in his announcement “the ordained priesthood will still be the preserve of men”.
Globally, some of these roles are already carried out by women, particularly in Western countries.
The official recognition comes after Francis described the “precious contribution” to the church women make.
Ms Telford was convinced the move would upset many inside the church, creating a divide between those on Francis’ liberal side, and the others on Benedict’s more conservative side.
This wedge between Benedict and Francis has grown bigger over recent years, Ms Telford said, as the ex-Pope attempts to exert his authority, despite resigning from the post in 2013.
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She said: “I think he would be horrified. Benedict is the old fashioned Priest, who thinks women are for praying and for breeding, who must stay at home and do as they are told.
“I think anyone who has a less forward thinking role in the Vatican will be concerned about this.”
Ms Telford, who wrote Women in the Vatican – Female Power in a Male World, said the reason men in the Catholic church were “wary” of women, is “because they might find out women are capable”.
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The expert argued Francis had shown he does like women and is encouraging them to grow into positions of power.
She added: “I think he is very keen on bringing women into the Vatican, which is terrifying for the old guard of Benedict.
“They really would not like the idea at all, but Francis is aware that things have to change otherwise the church will go under.”
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Reports have continually circulated regarding a feud between Francis and Benedict, ever since the latter stood down to become the first living Pope since the 1400s to do so.
Since his departure, Benedict has remained in the Vatican, with many observers claiming he still exercises his traditionalist values, which contradict the liberal agenda Francis is attempting to create.
Rows included the hope Pope Francis would back a move to allow married men to become priests in the Amazon regions in an attempt to resolve the declining numbers of priests in the area.
The move was eventually blocked in what was seen as a huge win for the traditionalist arm of the Catholic church.
But as Francis embarked on a journey to revitalise the Vatican and draw new worshippers to the church, some experts have said that Benedict is still attempting to use his power to ensure his traditional principles remain.
In last year’s Benedict XVI – A Life, Benedict attempted to smooth these allegations by saying his friendship with Francis had “not only endured but grown”.
His comments on gay marriage and abortion, two aspects of Catholic life Francis reportedly supports, have been seen as a sly attack on the current pontiff.
Benedict wrote in the German book: “A century ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to talk about homosexual marriage.
“Today those who oppose it are excommunicated from society.
“It’s the same thing with abortion and creating human life in the laboratory.
“The real threat to the church… is in the global dictatorship of purportedly humanist ideologies.”
Previously, Pope Francis has spoken out in support of welcoming those in the LGBT community to the Catholic faith.
In the year he was chosen to replace Benedict, Francis said that the “key for the church is to welcome, not exclude”.
He added: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?
“The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers.”
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