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NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – Pope Francis has received praise for his reported comments to a gay man.

The Pontiff told the man that God made him that way, which the LGBT community said was another sign that the Holy Father wants to make gay people feel welcome in the Catholic church.

Juan Carlos Cuz was a victim of Chile’s most notorious abusive priest. Pope Francis invited Cruz to the Vatican this month to offer a heartfelt apology.

Cruz, who is gay, said his conversation with the pope quickly moved from abuse to the nature of homosexuality.

“He immediately said to me, ‘look Juan Carlos, God loves you that way, God made you that way, the pope loves you and you have to love yourself,” said Cruz.

The Vatican declined to comment on the private conversation but, if confirmed, it would be a substantial statement of tolerance toward homosexuality.

“Gay people that I don’t even know have been writing to me and saying, ‘did he really say that to you?’ and I say, ‘yes,’ he said, ‘well that is changing my life’,” said Cruz.

The Catholic church teaches that gays should be respected, loved, and not discriminated against. But it also considers homosexual activity “intrinsically disordered.”

Pope Francis has tried to make the church more welcoming to gays.

“He’s really reaching out to LGBT people and even though this doesn’t change the teaching, it changes the approach of the church,” said Father James Martin, author of “Building a Bridge.”

Cruz said bishops used his sexual orientation as a weapon to try to discredit his claims. He added that he hopes the pope’s comments will lead to the end of a culture of abuse and cover-up.

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