Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane, the former head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), has called upon Pope Francis to consider permitting women to be ordained as priests.

The National Catholic Review spoke with Sr. Kane, who served as the president of the LCWR from 1979-80. The LCWR, which was founded in 1956, is an umbrella organization that represents some 80 percent of the approximately 57,000 U.S. sisters.

While serving as the LCWR’s president, Sr. Kane made headlines when she directly asked Pope John Paul II during first visit to the United States in 1979 about the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. 

While Pope John Paul II had "definitively ... closed the door" for women becoming ordained, Sr. Kane believes Pope Francis has a chance to "begin a whole new movement and a whole new philosophy."

“John Paul II was definitive, but John Paul II is dead," said Sr. Kane to NCR. "You don't just bury it because John Paul II said it. I wonder what [Francis'] own feeling is."

According to Sr. Kane, the ordination of women in the Catholic church “is a matter of justice.”

"If there's any inequality there's always injustice, whether it's racial or cultural or religious or gender," she said. "Not only is it a social justice, I've always said it's a form of inequality which is a form of idolatry actually -- that we idolize the ideas, we idolize the traditions, we idolize the way it has been."

Sr. Kane referred to Pope Francis’ recent comments in which he likened the role of women in the church to that of the Virgin Mary Queen of the Apostles; she said she believes the clergy puts women on a pedestal, but does not consider them equal.

"They continue to say Mary was so important, but we pedestalize her and we want to pedestalize women," said Kane. "We either pedestalize women or we condemn them. We never see them as equals, or we never have to look eye to eye and be equal with each other."

Sr. Kane wants to see Pope Francis "bring the church into the 21st century for the very significant equality of women and men” by at least reopening the conversation.

"Wouldn't it be a marvelous experience for Catholics to have him open the door again to it?" she asked.