Pope Francis
Pope Francis wants equal pay for men and women Getty

Pope Francis has made an impassioned plea for an end to the salary gap between men and women, calling it "a scandal" that Christians should decisively reject.

"Why is it taken for granted that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. The discrepancy is a pure scandal," he told tens of thousands of people at his general audience in St. Peter's Square, in the Vatican.

He made some of his most forceful remarks on the subject to date, saying that Christians should "decisively support the right to equal pay for equal work".

Women in the European Union were paid 16.4% less than men on average in 2013, according to statistics agency Eurostat. In the US, Census Bureau data indicate women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, based on annual median salaries.

The Pontiff has said he wants women to have a greater role in the Roman Catholic Church around the world and in the Vatican bureaucracy. However, he rejects the idea of women becoming priests, saying that "door is closed".

The Church teaches that women cannot become priests because Jesus willingly chose only men as his apostles. Advocates of a female priesthood reject this view, saying he was acting according the norms of his times.