Pope Francis said on Sunday that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from gay people for the way they had treated them.
In a one-hour conversation with reporters on the plane that brought him back to Rome from Armenia, the pontiff asked if he agreed with recent comments by a German Roman Catholic cardinal that the church should apologize to gay people.
The Pope recalled the teachings of the Church, saying: “Gay people should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally.
“I think that the Church not only should apologise to a gay whom it offended but it must also apologise to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, cto hildren who have been exploited by work. It must apologise for having blessed so many weapons.”
The Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but homosexual acts are, and that homosexuals should try to be chaste.
Francis repeated a slightly modified version of the now famous “Who am I to judge?” comments he made about gays on the first trip abroad after his election in 2013.
“The question is: if a person has this condition, which has a good will, and seek God, who are we to judge?”
The Vatican spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi said the pope, saying “has that condition”, did not imply a medical condition but “a person in that situation”. In Italian, the word “condition” can also mean “situation”.
“We Christians must apologize for many things, not just for this treatment of homosexuals, but we must ask for forgiveness, not just apologise; forgiveness. Lord, it is a word we so often forget.” He said.
Francis was welcomed by many in the gay community for being the most merciful pope to them in recent history while conservative Catholics criticized him for making comments they say are ambiguous on sexual morality.
He told reporters on the plane “there are traditions in some countries, some cultures, that have a different mentality about this question” and there are “some gay demonstrations that are too offensive for some”. He suggested that these are not the reasons for discrimination or marginalization of gays.
The pope did not elaborate on what he meant by seeking the forgiveness of the Church “having blessed so many weapons,” but it seemed to be a reference to some religious leaders who actively supported the wars in past.
In other parts of the conversation, Francis said he hoped the European Union would be able to give itself another form after the decision of the United Kingdom.
“There is something that is not working in that bulky union, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s try to jump start things, to recreate,” he said.
He also denied reports that the former Pope Benedict, who resigned in 2013, was still exercising influence within the Vatican.
“There is only one pope,” he said. He praised Benedict and 89 for “protecting me, having my back with his prayers”.
Francis said he had heard that when some church leaders went to Benedict complaining that Francis was too liberal, Benedict “sent them packing”