Pope Francis has reportedly told a gay man that “God made you like this and loves you like this.”
The comments were made several weeks ago in a private meeting with Chilean clerical sexual abuse survivor and whistle blower, Juan Carlos Cruz.
Carlos Cruz told Spain's El Pais newspaper that the pope said “Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are."
Pope Francis also apologised for his behaviour three months ago, when he didn't believe Carlos Cruz's allegations against Bishop Juan Barros, who allegedly witnessed and covered up sexual abuse by 87 year old paedophile, Father Fernando Karadima.
Father Karadima was found guilty of sexual abuse by the Vatican in 2011. A Vatican investigation into the cover up has now been conducted and all 34 bishops of Chile have offered to resign over the scandal.
“I want to apologize to you, in the name of the Pope and the Church, for everything that you have been through. I apologize personally, because I caused this situation that has given you so much pain in the last few months,” Carlos Cruz recalls Pope Francis saying.
Carlos Cruz spent a week at the pope's private residence in Santa Marta in Colombia, where he told the pontiff that Chilean bishops had tried to use his sexual orientation to discredit him, accusing him of lying and called him a pervert. Carlos Cruz also spoke openly of the sexual abuse he had suffered.
"I cried, and he looked very pained. He put his hand on my shoulder and said “Go ahead and cry, child," Carlos Cruz told El Pais.
The Vatican does not comment on the pope’s private conversations and refused to confirm if the pontiff's remarks have been reported accurately.
Pope Francis has reported to have been suuportive towards LGBT people twice before: in a private meeting with a gay man in the US in 2015 and to a transgender man in Spain.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the text containing the dogmas and teachings of the Church, calls homosexual acts “intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law,” and names “homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.”
At a 2013 press conference, the Pope reaffirmed that homosexual acts are sinful, but also said "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
"We shouldn't marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society."
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for equality for LGBT Catholics, said in a statement:
“If the comments are true, this represents a remarkable shift in official Catholic discourse on LGBT issues. Instead of the more passive “Who am I to judge?” the pope is expressing a much stronger affirmation of gay and lesbian people than he, or any previous pope or Vatican official, has ever done.”
“Even if the words reported are exactly as the pope said them, they still do not indicate a change in official teaching, but they do represent a major change in pastoral attitude and practice.”
“Our hope, though, is that Pope Francis would say these words publicly, not just in the context of a private conversation. LGBT people need to hear this message proclaimed, not just whispered.”
“Such a message stated publicly would do an immense amount of good towards effecting healing and reconciliation with so many people alienated from the church because of sexuality issues.”