The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles has asked elderly nuns and priests to volunteer to be inoculated with an experimental AIDS vaccine.

Archbishop Roger Mahony has sent a letter to the 3,500 priests and nuns in the Los Angeles archdiocese, seeking 10 volunteers age 65 or older. The prototype vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, father of the commercial polio vaccine.The appeal was first reported by the Chicago Tribune, which said some scientists are concerned about the proposed experiment and the safety of Salk's vaccine. That is because the prototype vaccine is the only one that is made from the whole AIDS virus.

Critics say that if live strains of the virus contaminate the vaccine, the volunteers could be accidentally infected, the paper said in its Sunday editions.

The main reason for seeking volunteers from the ranks of the church was that they presumably would be unlikely to have been infected with AIDS through the most common means - sexual intercourse or intravenous drug use, the paper said.