Pope Francis says priestly celibacy is up for discussion.
For the first time since his election, the pope said that it is "not a dogma" that members of the clergy must abstain from sex. He made the remark in a chat with reporters on his way back to the Vatican from a historic trip to the Middle East.
"It is a rule of life that I appreciate very much, and I think it is a gift for the church, but since it is not a dogma, the door is always open," Francis said on Monday.
The Catholic Church has been under pressure to abandon the celibate tradition. Some critics have argued, in the face of widespread sexual abuse of children by priests, that sexual frustration may be partly to blame.