Pope Francis said on Monday that gay people should not be marginalised but integrated into society.
Speaking on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Catholic Church's position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not. He was responding to questions about whether there was a "gay lobby" in the Vatican.
"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?"
He also said he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but insisted they could not be priests.
The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a trip to Brazil.
The BBC reports the remarks on gay people were as much less judgemental than his predecessor's position on the issue.
Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.
But Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well," Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging 80-minute long interview with Vatican journalists.
"It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society."
But he condemned what he described as lobbying by gay people.
"The problem is not having this orientation," he said. "We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem."
On the role of women in the Church, he said: "We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.
"But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no... That door is closed."
Answering questions about the Vatican bank, Pope Francis said the troubled institution must become "honest and transparent" and that he would listen to advice on whether it could be reformed or should be shut down altogether.
"I don't know what will become of the bank. Some say it is better that is a bank, others that it should be a charitable fund and others say close it," he said.