Pope Francis speaks to journalists on his flight back to Rome following a visit at Armenia on June 26, 2016.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists on his flight back to Rome following a visit at Armenia on June 26, 2016. Reuters/Tiziana Fabi/Pool

The Roman Catholic Church must apologise to the LGBT community. Pope Francis has told reporters that Christians should apologise to gay people and others who have been exploited by the Church before.

Aboard the Papal plane on his return from Armenia on Sunday, the pontiff answered a reporter’s question about his thoughts on German Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s comment, which said the Catholic Church must ask forgiveness to the gay community for marginalising them.

“I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behaviour,” he answered (via the Catholic News Agency).

“I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that ‘Marxist Cardinal’ said, must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended, but she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labour.

“She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times – when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners! – Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families…”

He added that the culture has thankfully changed over the years. Otherwise, a divorced family wouldn’t still be able to enter a Catholic church. Christians must ask for “forgiveness, not just apologies.”

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has spoken about the gay and lesbian community. In 2013, he said homosexual acts were sinful but homosexual orientation was not.

“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he told reporters on a flight back from Brazil.

The pope’s comments are seen as less judgmental than any of his predecessors’. Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of Catholic gay rights group New Ways Ministry, said the popes remarks were “an immense blessing of healing.”

“No pope has said more welcoming words to LGBT people than Pope Francis’ recommendation today that the Church – indeed all Christians – should apologise for the harm religious traditions have caused to LGBT people,” he said in a statement.

“The pope’s statement was simple, yet powerful, and it fell from his lips so easily. The simplicity of his language will provide an immense blessing of healing and reconciliation to LGBT people and Catholics who support them, who have been waiting decades to hear such a simple, honest statement from the Vatican.”