The Catholic Church’s long-standing rule on priestly Celibacy might be amended, but only in exceptional cases concerning remote communities, Pope Francis said on Monday.

He told reporters on the plane taking him back from a six-day trip to Panama that he would not go as far as giving blanket permission for priests to get married.

“I won’t do it. This remains clear. Perhaps I’m close-minded. But I don’t feel like putting myself before God with this decision,’’ he said.

However, Francis admitted that there was a problem with remote Catholic communities in places like the Amazon or some Pacific islands, where there are no priests to say Mass.

In those cases, he said, it may be an idea to ordain an elder member of such communities, even if that person is married, so that he could perform the role of a priest.

“The issue must be open for places where there is a pastoral problem because of the lack of priests,’’ Francis said.

He added that “I am not saying it should be done, because I have not thought, prayed enough about it. But theologians must study it.”

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