However, the women did not "give any indication of amendment or repentance for the most serious offense they had committed," the Vatican said in a statement signed by Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, announcing the excommunication.
The statement expressed hope, however, that the women would eventually return to the fold. "The Congregation trusts that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the above-mentioned persons may rediscover the path of conversion in order to return to the unity of the faith and to communion with the Church, which they have wounded by their actions."
One of the women, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, described the Vatican decision as "a further act of discrimination against women in the Catholic Church."
"For us nothing at all changes," she told the Austria Press Agency. "We stand single-mindedly, unwaveringly by our vocation." Mayr-Lumetzberger, who is acting as spokeswoman for the group, said the women would appeal the decision.
Pope John Paul II has made clear he sees no room for debate about the possibility of opening up the priesthood to women. The Church says Jesus chose men to be his apostles and that the practice of ordaining only men must stand.