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Pope Francis tells gay man: 'God made you like this'

Juan Carlos Cruz, the main whistleblower in Chile's clerical sex abuse scandal, said Monday Pope Francis told him "God loves you that way. God made you that way."

Cruz, who spoke privately with the Pope two weeks ago about the abuse he suffered at the hands of one of Chile’s most notorious paedophiles, said the issue of his sexuality had arisen because some of the Latin American country’s bishops had sought to depict him as a pervert as they accused him of lying about the abuse.

Describing his encounter with the Pope, Cruz said: "You know Juan Carlos, that does not matter. God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say."

The Pope's words would amount to a significant departure from the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which considers homosexuality "objectively disordered" and contrary to God's law.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said on Monday: "We do not normally comment on the Pope's private conversations."

Fernando Karadima, the man who abused Cruz, was found guilty of abuse by the Vatican in 2011.

Last Friday, all the bishops in Chile offered their resignation to Pope Francis after a three-day emergency summit at the Vatican to discuss Chile's sex-abuse scandal.

In total, 31 active bishops and three retired bishops announced in a statement that they had offered to resign over the scandal and place the issue "in the hands of the Holy Father so that he might freely decide for each one of us."

It is not the first time it has been suggested Francis has an open and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality, despite the Catholic church’s teaching that gay sex – and all sex outside of heterosexual marriage – is a sin. In July 2013, in response to a reporter’s question about the existence of an alleged “gay lobby” within the Vatican, Francis said: “Who am I to judge?”

The new remarks appear to go much further in embracing homosexuality as a sexual orientation that is designed and bestowed by God. It suggests that Francis does not believe that individuals choose to be gay or lesbian, as some religious conservatives argue.

Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of the Pope, said Francis had likely made similar comments in private in the past, when he served as a spiritual director to gay people in Buenos Aires, but that Cruz’s public discussion of his conversation with Francis represented the most “forceful” remarks on the subject since 2013.

It did not, however, represent a shift in church teaching, Ivereigh said, since the church had never formally made any pronouncements on why individuals were gay.

Christopher Lamb, the Vatican correspondent for the Tablet, said the comments were remarkable and a sign of a shift in attitudes taking place. “It goes beyond ‘who am I to judge?’ to ‘you are loved by God,’” said Lamb. “I don’t think he has changed church teaching but he’s demonstrating an affirmation of gay Catholics, something that has been missing over the years in Rome.”

The remarks come as several high profile members of the clergy have sought to publicly make inroads with gay Catholics, many of whom have felt shunned and unwelcome in the church and have been ostracised.

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