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Pope Francis waves as he leaves the Shrine of Our Lord of the Miracles after a mid-morning prayer with contemplative nuns, in Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, 2018.
Rodrigo Abd/AP
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Pope Francis' Conversation With Gay Sexual Abuse Survivor Could Be Groundbreaking

When the pope speaks, his millions of followers listen — apparently even when those conversations take place in private.

This weekend, clerical abuse survivor and gay rights activist Juan Carlos Cruz revealed that in a conversation with the pope several weeks ago, Pope Francis reportedly told Cruz, who is gay, that, “God made you like this.” 

“[The pope] said, 'Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you,” Cruz told AP

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In their two-and-a-half hour meeting, he also asked for Cruz’s forgiveness for the abuse he suffered at the hands of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima when Cruz was an adolescent. 

"He said, 'Juan Carlos, the first thing I want to do is apologize for what happened to you and apologize in the name of the pope, and in the name of the universal church,'” Cruz said in an interview with NPR earlier this month.

The Vatican responded to Cruz’s statement on Monday, saying: “We don’t normally comment on the pope’s private conversations.” 

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While the pope hasn’t come out with any public statements on the topic since his conversation with Cruz, the conversation could be potentially groundbreaking in a religion that has had a contentious relationship with the gay rights movement and homosexuality more generally, and that still does not recognize same-sex marriage.  

Francis' recent statement wasn’t the first he has made — publicly or privately — that hinted at acceptance of the LGBTQ community. 

In 2013, during a press conference on a plane, Francis told reporters that, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with goodwill, who am I to judge?” — sparking both praise and criticism worldwide.

Later, in an interview with America Magazine, the pope spoke out again in support of the LGBTQ community: “Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person,” he said.  

In the wake of the Catholic Church’s latest abuse scandal, some have urged the pope to do more to support the LGBTQ community. 

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“It would do a lot better if he would make these statements publicly, because LGBT people need to hear that message from religious leaders, from Catholic leaders," Francis DeBernardo, executive director of LGBTQ-positive Catholic organization New Ways Ministry, told ABC News

Others praised the Pope for rebuking established church norms: 

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