Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should apologise and seek forgiveness from the gay community for treating them poorly, Pope Francis said on Sunday (26 June). Besides, Christians also owed an apology to exploited women and children as well as the poor, the pontiff said.

Pope Francis was talking to reporters on a flight from Armenia to Rome. In answer to a question, he said he agreed with German Roman Catholic cardinal, Reinhard Marx that the Church should apologise to gay people.

"[Gay people] should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally," Pope Francis said.

"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 exploited by (being forced to) work. It must apologise for having blessed so many weapons," he added.

However, he did not elaborate on what he meant by "having blessed so many weapons".

Pope Francis in Lesbos
Pope Francis blesses a man kneeling in front of him as he greets migrants and refugees at the Moria refugee camp in this file picture Filippo Monteforte/Reuters

Backing the Pope's comment, Father Federico Lombardi, spokesman of Vatican, said Christians need to seek forgiveness for several things. "We must ask for forgiveness, not just apologise; forgiveness. Lord, it is a word we forget so often."

The Pope denied claims that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, still influences matters at the Vatican. "There is only one pope," he said, while praising Pope Benedict for "protecting me, having my back, with his prayers".