Pope Francis has said that the Roman Catholic Church should apologise to gay people for discriminating against them.

He said the church had been unfair to gays and must seek forgiveness from them. He said the church must also apologise to the poor and women and children who have been exploited.

“I will repeat what the catechism of the Church says, that they [homosexuals] should not be discriminated against, that they should be respected, accompanied pastorally.

“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’s remarks have been hailed by many in the gay community for his positive attitude towards homosexuals.

But some conservative Catholics have criticised him for making comments they say are ambiguous about sexual morality.