A Canadian bishop says the Catholic Church should think about allowing women to become deacons - one step below a priest - to help boost their involvement and influence.
Paul-Andre Durocher told a three-week synod on the family at the Vatican that qualified women should be given higher positions, including being ordained as deacons - a suggestion met with applause from some Church leaders.
Durocher suggested "concerning the permanent diaconate, that this synod recommends the establishment of a process that could eventually open women access to this order".
As it stands, the number of Catholic nuns and lay religious in the world far outweighs that of priests - some 700,000 to 415,000 - but women are pitifully represented in the Church hierarchy.
Bishop Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, was tackling a subject close to the Pope's heart, which was published on Thursday on the synod website.
Pope Francis has repeatedly said he would like to create more opportunities for women, though he has taken few concrete steps to change the situation within the centuries-old institution.
And there are some within the conservative wing of the Church who may resist an opening up to women.
Deacons are authorised to deliver sermons and celebrate baptisms, weddings and funerals, but only priests can give communion and hear confessions.