SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— No girls allowed — that’s the message from San Francisco’s Star of the Sea Church when it comes to who can be an altar server for their masses.

Father Joseph Illo who has led the church for about five months told KPIX 5 that while girls were authorized to be altar servers under canon law about 20 years ago, they are still not able to be ordained as priests and serving at the altar is a “priestly function.”

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In his official statement on the new policy (available on the church’s website), Illo wrote that in mixed-altar server programs, that boys generally tend to lose interest, because “girls do a better job” and that giving boys their own program leaves them space to develop their own leadership potential.

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Parishioner response has been mixed with some saying that it represented a turn to the wrong direction for the church, going as far as calling it “disturbing”, but Illo claimed Mass attendance and income has actually increased after the implementation of the new policy.

“We have seen an overall increase in numbers I must say and the income is up in the church,” he said.

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Illo said he received permission from the San Francisco Archbishop to only train boys as altar servers.