Pope Francis said on Sunday that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church should seek forgiveness from homosexuals for the way they had treated them.

Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome from Armenia, he also said the Church should ask forgiveness for the way it has treated women, for turning a blind eye to child labour and for "blessing so many weapons" in the past.

In the hour-long freewheeling conversation that has become a trademark of his international travels, Francis was asked if he agreed with recent comments by a German Roman Catholic cardinal that the Church should apologise to gays.

Francis looked sad when the reporter asked if an apology was made more urgent by the killing of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, Florida this month.

File photo of Pope Francis | AFP

He recalled Church teachings that homosexuals "should not be discriminated against. They should be respected, accompanied pastorally."

He added:

"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 Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful 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?" comment he made about gays on the first foreign trip after his election in 2013.

"The questions is: if a person who has that condition, who has good will, and who looks for God, who are we to judge?"

(Feature image source: AFP)