ROME • Pope Francis said that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should apologise to gay people and seek their forgiveness for the way they have been treated.
Speaking to reporters as he flew back to Rome from Armenia, the Pope was asked on Sunday if he agreed with comments by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx that the Church needed to say sorry for the way it has treated the gay community.
"We Christians have to apologise for so many things, not just for this (treatment of gay people), but we must ask for forgiveness. Not just apologise - forgiveness," he said.
"The question is: If a person who has that condition, who has good will, and who looks for God, who are we to judge?" the Pope added, repeating his famous "Who am I to judge?" remark about homosexuality made early in his papacy.
The Vatican said that the Pope, by saying "condition", did not imply a medical condition but "a person in that situation". In Italian, the word "condition" can also mean "situation", The Guardian reported.
That comment was one of the first indications that the Vatican under Pope Francis' leadership would take a more conciliatory approach to the gay community, but it also prompted criticism from the Church's conservative members.
The Pope expanded his apology to also include other people who have faced discrimination.
"I think that the Church not only should apologise to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologise to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been forced to work."
The Pope also denied reports that former Pope Benedict, who resigned in 2013, was still exercising influence inside the Vatican, The Guardian said.
"There is only one Pope," he said, praising Pope Emeritus Benedict, 89, for "protecting me, having my back, with his prayers".