(NBC NEWS) Pope Francis has opened the door for a debate on priestly celibacy.

Fresh off the back of his historic trip to the Middle East, the pontiff delved into one of core Catholic Church rules by declaring it is “not a dogma” that clergy members abstain from sex.

“It is a rule of life that I appreciate very much, and I think it is a gift for the church,” Francis told reporters aboard a plane returning to the Vatican. “But since it is not a dogma, the door is always open.”

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