A Nova Scotia religious leader is urging the Vatican to allow women to take on a greater role in the Catholic Church.

Bishop Brian Dunn of the Diocese of Antigonish says it’s time the church recognized equality in some duties which are now limited to men.

Between sex scandals, parish closures, and dwindling congregations, Roman Catholics have received little good news in recent years.

But now many are calling a plea to give women positions of religious leadership in the church a positive development.

“They would be officially recognized as lay ministers in the church,” says Dunn. “As soon as you have official recognition, that would be a major acknowledgement of the role of women in the church.”

The priesthood would still be out of reach, but women could help conduct weddings, funerals, and a variety of other duties related to religious life.

A spokesman for the pastoral council overseeing parishes in the Sydney area also isn’t ruling out the ordination of women in a role just below that of a priest.

“One of the subjects at the moment is the appointment of deacons within the church,” says Pat Bates.

“Women are prohibited from occupying that particular role at the moment, so there is a growing feeling that an appropriate recognition should be extended to women in roles such as this.”

There are also practical reasons to allow women to take on more responsibility in the church, including a chronic shortage of priests.

“Women have sustained their church in many capacities and I certainly don’t see any reason in the world why they can’t take more of a leadership role than they have been allowed, to date,” says women’s rights advocate Louise MacDonald.

Dunn delivered his proposal for the appointment of women to senior church roles during a recent conference at the Vatican, but there is no indication at this time whether the reforms will take place.

WIth files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald