A breakaway Catholic group have for the first time ordained a woman priest. The Italian Old Catholic Church carried out the ceremony in Rome yesterday (23 May).
The ordination has taken on symbolic importance as a reminder of the support for women's ordination within the Catholic tradition.
The priest, Mother Maria Vittoria Longhitano, is a 35-year-old married teacher.
The Italian Old Catholic Church broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century. They are a small group and used an Anglican Church for the ordination ceremony.
Old Catholic supporters of the ordination say that the denomination will be strengthened by a female presence in the priesthood.
Longhitano is hoping that the event will encourage progress towards the acceptance of female priests within the Roman Catholic Church itself.
"We are talking about an extremely hierarchical system [in the Roman Catholic Church],” she said, “A male caste with a strong instinct of self-preservation, and this is why there is this general attitude against ordaining women in the Church”.
While the Vatican remains firmly opposed to women's ordination, there are strong grassroots movements in favour of it in a number of countries.