Pope says Church owes gays an apology

POPE Francis has said the Roman Catholic Church owes gay people an apology for the way it has treated them.

On a flight from Armenia to Rome, the Pontiff also told reporters the institution should seek forgiveness from other groups it had discriminated against.

"I will repeat what the catechism of the Church says, that they (gay people) should not be discriminated against, they should be respected, accompanied pastorally,'' he 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."

The Pope made the remarks after he was asked if he agreed with statements made by senior cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said the Church must say sorry to homosexuals.

Pope Francis has been lauded by the gay community, but also criticised by conservative Roman Catholics, for his tolerance of homosexuality.

In 2013, the pontiff said: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

Although the leader maintains being gay is not wrong, he has said performing homosexual acts is sinful.