An African bishop proposed Monday that women - although barred from becoming priests - be allowed to take part in the selection of the pope.
The appeal by Bishop Ernest Kombo of Owando, Congo, made before Pope John Paul II and hundreds of clergymen from around the world, capped a series of increasingly direct demands for a greater role in church affairs for nuns and women religious workers.
The future of women in all aspects of the Roman Catholic Church has emerged as one the principal debates at a monthlong bishops' synod, called to discuss the possibility of changes in the structure and outlook of religious orders and lay groups.
The gathering, which ends Oct. 29, has begun with hundreds of statements from clergy members.
Kombo's comments have so far proved the most radical.
"Women must be able to rise to the highest positions in the establishment of the church, they should also be nominated as lay cardinals," said Kombo.
Kombo noted that church rules do not require cardinals to be priests or clergy members, although for centuries nearly every cardinal previously has been a bishop or other high-ranking cleric. Kombo suggested a special lay cardinal position for women.
The main duty of cardinals is to elect the pope. The pope …