Pope Francis reportedly told Chilean clerical sex abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz it “does not matter” that he is gay.
Mr Cruz told the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, that the pope had made the remarks to him during their private meeting in late April at the Vatican.
Mr Cruz, who was abused by Chilean priest Fernando Karadima in the 1980s, said Francis had offered him a heartfelt apology.
He told El Pais that the conversation then moved on from the abuse crisis to the nature of homosexuality.
“He told me ‘Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like that and he loves you like that and I do not care. The Pope loves you as you are, you have to be happy with who you are,’” Mr Cruz told the Spanish daily.
He also said that he had told the pope that his faith is very important to him, and that he found it “awful” that his abusers tried to destroy that for him. “It’s a terrible evil,” he said that the pope told him in response.
Mr Cruz reportedly also told the pope that he could “have a spectacular papacy if you grab the bull by the horns and deliver a strong blow on the issue of abuse, and send out the message that the pope will no longer tolerate this.”
Francis met with three Chilean survivors of sex abuse in the Chilean church – including Mr Cruz – in Rome after receiving a 2,300- page report into the country’s sex abuse problems written by the Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna.
The Pope also ordered all 34 of the country’s bishops to the Vatican to discuss the crisis, after which every bishop offered his resignation to Francis.
The dramatic announcement followed the leaking of a 10-page letter, reportedly handed to the bishops at the start of the discussions, in which Francis said removing bishops may be needed but would not be sufficient to solve the abuse crisis in Chile. In the letter Francis cites clericalist, elitist and authoritarian attitudes dominating in the Church and an urgent need to put Christ back at the “ecclesial centre”.
The pope has yet to accept the bishop’s resignations.
Abuse survivor Marie Collins told the Irish Times on Friday that allowing Chile’s bishops simply to resign “doesn’t appear like justice to me”.
She also questioned if “any of these [Chilean] bishops, who tried to destroy survivors, will face any disciplinary process?”
Ms Collins played a major role in bringing the issue of clerical child sexual abuse to a head as a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, before resigning last year in protest of the commission’s lack of progress.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests have said that they hope Francis accepts the resignations of the Chilean bishops “in keeping with his word to no longer be a "part of the problem" of child sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church”.
“We hope that the Pope will not only accept the resignations, but he will also remove their titles and assign them to jobs without prestige,” the statement, published on 18 May, said.
It continued: “The bishops can always find other employment. The victims of Chile's abuse can never get their innocence back”.