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Despite Vatican denial, Pope Francis received sexual abuse victim's letter

Pope Francis received a victim's letter in 2015 that detailed how a priest sexually abused him and how other clergy ignored it, contradicting the pope's recent insistence that no victims had come forward, according to the letter's author.

The Associated Press obtained the letter from Chilean survivor Juan Carlos Cruz. Members of the pope's sex-abuse advisory commission say they flew to Rome in 2015 specifically to hand-deliver the letter to a top papal adviser, Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Cruz and commission members say O'Malley assured them he had delivered it to the pope.

"When we gave him (O'Malley) the letter for the pope, he assured us he would give it to the pope and speak of the concerns," then-commission member Marie Collins told the AP. "And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done."

Cruz, who now lives and works in Philadelphia, heard the same later that year.

"Cardinal O'Malley called me after the pope's visit here in Philadelphia and he told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope - in his hands," he said in an interview at his home Sunday.

Francis recently sparked an outcry by vigorously defending Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of covering up for Chile's most notorious pedophile priest. Francis said he had never heard from victims about Barros' behavior.

The Barros affair first caused shockwaves in January 2015 when Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno, Chile, over the objections of the leadership of Chile's bishops' conference and many local priests and laity. They accepted as credible the testimony against Karadima, a prominent Chilean cleric who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for abusing minors. Barros was a Karadima protege, and according to Cruz and other victims, he witnessed the abuse and did nothing.

Cruz and other survivors had for years denounced the cover-up of Karadima's crimes, but were dismissed as liars by the Chilean church hierarchy and the Vatican's own ambassador in Santiago, who refused their repeated requests to meet before and after Barros was appointed.
The fact that Francis received the eight-page letter, challenges his insistence that he has "zero tolerance" for sex abuse and cover-ups. It also calls into question his stated empathy with abuse survivors, compounding the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.

Neither the Vatican nor O'Malley have responded to multiple requests by media outlets for comment.

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