'God loves gay people,' Pope tells sex abuse victim
God loves gay people and it is fine to be homosexual, Pope Francis has reportedly said.
The Pope is said to have made the remarks, which go significantly beyond his previous tolerance for homosexuality, during a meeting three weeks ago with a Chilean man who had been sexually abused by Catholic priests.
The Pope offered a heartfelt apology to Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of Chile's most notorious abusive priest, Fernando Karadima. Mr Cruz, who is gay, said his conversation with the Pope 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 newspaper 'El Pais'.
The Pope's words appeared to go further in terms of tolerance than remarks he made in 2013. Speaking to the Vatican press corps on his return to Rome from a trip to Brazil, he said gay people should not be marginalised but rather integrated into society.
Responding to questions about claims of an alleged "gay lobby" of clerics working in the heart of the Vatican, the Pope replied: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"
The Roman Catholic Church insists that while homosexual orientation is not sinful, homosexual acts certainly are because they are "against natural law".
The Pope is not changing official Church teaching, but he is signalling a more inclusive approach, which will upset many conservative Catholics.
The Vatican neither confirmed nor denied the comments the Pope reportedly made to Mr Cruz.
"This is not a shift in theological teaching or dogma," said Robert Mickens, a Vatican expert and the editor of 'La Croix International', a Roman Catholic publication.