Pope Francis tells gay Chilean sex abuse victim 'God loves you'
A gay man who suffered sexual abuse by priests in Chile has said Pope Francis told him in a private meeting that "God made you this way and he loves you".
Juan Carlos Cruz told the BBC that the pontiff made the comments in a conversation that took place at the Vatican in April.
Mr Cruz said Pope Francis apologised "in the name of the universal church" for abuse by Catholic clergy in Chile.
The Vatican has not independently confirmed the comments.
Mr Cruz, who was abused as a young boy by Catholic priest Fernando Karadima, said the Pope was "very upset" during the nearly three-hour meeting in which the pontiff said: "I'm sorry."
"He was extremely kind, extremely gracious. It was an apology that was by no means fake or false," Mr Cruz told the BBC's Newsday programme on Tuesday.
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He said that as part of his apology, Pope Francis said he felt he had been "part of this problem" during a period in which he "didn't understand" what had taken place.
Mr Cruz said he had been told for years by the cardinals in Chile that as a gay man he was living "a life of perversion", that he "wasn't worthy" and that "I probably liked the abuse because I was gay".
"He [the Pope] was very upset. I told him that I kept my faith and that I try to be a good person and not hurt anybody," Mr Cruz said.
"He said you have to understand that God made you this way and he loves you, and the Pope loves you and you have to love yourself.
"For me this was very liberating and incredible to hear from the Holy Father," he added.
During his visit to Chile in January, the Pope said he felt "pain and shame" over the sex abuse scandal, asking the victims for forgiveness.
The case of Father Karadima, an influential priest who was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing young boys and ordered to do penance, shook the Catholic Church in Chile.
Father Karadima never faced prosecution as too much time had passed, but the judge who heard victims' testimony described them as "truthful and reliable".
Pope Francis has said sorry in the past for the "irreparable harm" caused to the victims of sexual abuse by Church ministers, and that dealing with abuse is vital for the Church's credibility.
Under Francis, a Vatican committee has been set up to fight sexual abuse and help victims, but some Chilean victims say more transparency is needed.