The following comes from a Jan. 28 story by Catholic News Agency.

Vatican City — Pope Francis said he is opposed to the idea of optional priestly celibacy in the Latin rite, and he would consider it only for very remote places if a serious need existed.

“Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church,” the pope said Jan. 28. “I would say that I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no.”

Speaking aboard the papal plane from Panama to Rome, Pope Francis said he does think there is room to consider an exceptions for married clergy in the Latin rite in “very far places” “when there is a pastoral necessity” due to a lack of priests, such as in the Pacific islands.

However, he said that he has not thought or prayed sufficiently about the issue to come to a decision on it, and that he would not want to put himself “before God with this decision,” even if it suggests he is “narrow-minded.”

His comments were made ahead of a synod on the pan-Amazon region to be held in October, at which priestly celibacy is expected to be discussed as it pertains to the remote Amazon basin where there is often a shortage of priests.

Pope Francis also recalled the writing of German Fritz Lobinger, bishop emeritus of Aliwal, South Africa, who argues for the possibility of ordaining “viri probati,” or “proven men,” in places where there is a dire lack of priests. These married priests could, he suggested, administer the sacraments and celebrate Mass, though they would not have the full competency of ordinary priests.

Francis called this idea “interesting,” and said it could provide a basis for considering the question, but that it should be studied by theologians. At the same time, he emphasized that his personal opinion was against making celibacy a choice candidates made as they prepared for ordination: “optional celibacy before the diaconate, no… I would not do it. And this remains clear.”

“It is something to study, think, rethink, and pray about,” he said.