Celibacy for priests is a “gift to the Church” and not “optional”, says Pope Francis, nixing the prospect of married men being ordained. “Personally I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church,” the pope told journalists aboard his plane on Monday as he headed back to the Vatican from Panama. “Secondly, I don’t think optional celibacy should be allowed. No,” he said. The pope nevertheless conceded “some possibilities for far-flung places”, such as Pacific islands or the Amazon where “there is a pastoral necessity”. “This is something being discussed by theologians, it’s not my decision,” he said. The Argentine pontiff has repeatedly said there is no doctrinal prohibition on married men becoming priests, and therefore the discipline could be changed. Saint Peter, the church’s first pope, had a mother-in-law, according to the Bible. Celibacy was imposed in the 11th century, possibly partly to prevent descendants of priests inheriting church property. Some within the Church believe i...

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