A gay Chilean man who survived abuse by a Catholic priest said Pope Francis told him that his sexual orientation "doesn't matter" to him and that "God made you like this."
Juan Carlos Cruz said he spoke to the pope about his homosexuality during their recent meetings at the Vatican. The pope invited Cruz and other victims of a Chilean predator priest to discuss their cases last month.
"Juan Carlos, that you are gay doesn't matter," Cruz said Pope Francis told him, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais. "God made you like this and loves you like this, and it doesn't matter to me. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are."
The Vatican has refused to confirm or deny the remarks, citing its policy not to comment on the pope's private conversations.
Cruz, who was abused as a child by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, Chile's most notorious pedophile priest, told the paper that his sexual orientation came up during the discussion because he has been targeted for being gay after speaking out about his abuse.
Whether the pope's comments will bring about change within the Catholic Church is debatable. Pope Francis has sought to make the church more welcoming to gays, most famously with his 2013 comment, "Who am I to judge?''
He also has spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgender people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompaniment by the church.
While the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that people with "homosexual tendencies" "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity," it also calls a "deep-seated" homosexual inclination and its acts "intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to the natural law."