Pope Francis believes that women have been marginalized in the Catholic Church, but remains opposed to the ordination of women and reforms to the Church's teachings on abortion.
In his Evangelii Gaudium, translated into English as The Joy of the Gospel, Francis rejected the idea of female priests, but said women needed to have more power within in the Church.
The document was published Tuesday.
The pope wrote that "we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church." He said women needed to be included "where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures."
"Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded," he wrote.
He flatly rejected the ordination of women, citing Catholic doctrine. Francis said priesthood for women was not "a question open to discussion," but warned that "sacramental power" can become "too closely identified with power in general."
"The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others," he wrote.
Francis also rejected changes to the Church's teachings against abortion. He complained that the anti-abortion movement was often portrayed as "ideological, obscurantist and conservative."
"This defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right," he wrote. "It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems."
"Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question," Francis continued. "I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or 'modernizations'. It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life."
"On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?" he added.