1:54 PM PT -- Chris' mea culpa went over well with Rachel Lindsay, she tells us she accepts his apology.
Rachel tells TMZ ... she accepted the apology because it's what she needs to do to move forward with her life.
She says she and Chris have not spoken directly since his 'GMA' interview, but she watched it. RL tells us they spoke about 3 weeks ago, when the scandal first happened, and he apologized directly then too.
Chris made it clear he wants to return to 'The Bachelor' next season ... and sources close to Rachel tell us she doesn't feel like it's up to her to know when he's ready to come back, and she feels a final decision rests with him and the franchise.
Chris Harrison says he's sorry for offending Rachel Lindsay and the entire Black community, by excusing historical racism -- but adds he wants to be back hosting the 'Bachelor' franchise.
Harrison spoke out on 'GMA' for the first time since taking a hiatus, and copped to making a mistake while talking to Rachel about the photos that surfaced of current 'Bachelor' contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at a 2018 antebellum south party.
Chris had initially excused Kirkconnell's pics by retorting, "Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a difference."
He's walking it back now by saying ... "Antebellum parties are not okay. Past, present, future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable."
Chris also said he was "saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay." He added, "I didn't speak from my heart -- and that is to say I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry."
As you know ... since Chris and Rachel's interview, he's stepped away from his 'Bachelor' host duties and Rachel was forced to leave Instagram following a flood of Bachelor Nation hate. Harrison addressed that too, saying ... "To anyone throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay. Please stop. It is unacceptable."