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(WB) Pope Francis has invited a gay man from Chile who was sexually abused by a priest to meet with him at the Vatican.

Juan Carlos Cruz on Sunday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Philadelphia that Francis invited him to be his “guest” at his official residence near St. Peter’s Basilica from April 26-May 1.

Media reports indicate Francis will meet with Cruz on April 28-29. Cruz told the Blade that Francis wants “to spend as much time as possible with me.”

Cruz is among the hundreds of people who Rev. Fernando Karadima sexually abused in his parish in El Bosque, a wealthy neighborhood in the Chilean capital of Santiago, for more than three decades.

Cruz and two other men — José Murillo and James Hamilton, who Francis has also invited to the Vatican — publicly accused Karadima of abusing them.

Two Chilean courts ruled they could not prosecute Karadima because the statute of limitations had expired. The Vatican in 2011 found him guilty and sanctioned him to a “lifetime of penance and prayer” at a convent.

Cruz, Murillo and Hamilton in a 2013 civil lawsuit accused Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, and his predecessor, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, and the Archdiocese of Santiago of covering up the abuse about which they knew.

A Chilean newspaper in 2015 published emails between Ezzati and Errázuriz that showed they conspired to prevent Cruz from being named to a sex abuse commission that Francis created.

Ezzati in one email referred to Cruz as “the serpent.” Cruz told the Blade in a previous interview that Errázuriz dismissed his allegations against Karadima, noting he is “gay and he liked it.”

“This culture of abuse and cover-up has to end,” Cruz told the Blade on Sunday. “It’s been really hard dealing with all this because I’m gay. They have been extra harsh, the cardinals.”

Francis admits to ‘serious errors’ in Karadima case

Cruz, Murillo and Hamilton are scheduled to meet with Francis less than four months after the pontiff traveled to Chile.

Francis sparked widespread outrage in the predominantly Roman Catholic country when he publicly defended Rev. Juan Barros, a Karadima protégé who is the bishop of the Chilean city of Osorno, and dismissed allegations that he witnessed the sex abuse and covered it up

Francis in a 2015 letter acknowledged Barros’ appointment would have proven controversial in Chile because of the allegations that Cruz and other Karadima victims have publicly made against him. A Chilean television station later broadcast a video that shows Francis describing the Osorno residents who were protesting against Barros as “dumb.”

Cruz in 2015 wrote a letter to Francis that detailed the abuse he suffered and reiterated his allegations against Barros. Cruz later said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, who is Francis’ top advisor on clergy sex abuse, told him that he personally handed the letter to the pontiff.

Francis in a letter he sent to the country’s 32 Catholic bishops on April 8 said he made “serious errors” in the way he has responded to the Karadima case. Francis in the letter also summoned them to the Vatican next month.

Francis after he left Chile asked Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to interview 64 sex abuse victims in Santiago and New York.

Bertomeu interviewed Cruz in New York in February. Francis received Bertomeu and Scicluna’s report on March 20.

Francis in his letter to the bishops said Bertomeu and Scicluna were “overwhelmed by the pain of so many victims.” Francis also said their accounts of the sex abuse they suffered “causes me pain and shame.”


Cruz: Meeting should not be a ‘public relations exercise’

Cruz on Sunday told the Blade he appreciates Francis’ “gesture” to meet with him, Murillo and Hamilton.

“I also don’t want this to be a public relations exercise,” added Cruz. “I certainly don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about every survivor around the world who is still not being heard, who is still not being believed and who is still being mistreated. I feel an enormous weight to be able to convey that because not everybody gets this opportunity and I want to be able to represent everybody well. It’s weighing on me a lot.”

Cruz also told the Blade he will ask Francis to hold Barros and the other Chilean bishops who covered up Karadima’s abuse “accountable.”

“[I hope they will] lose their jobs and not get cushy jobs like the Vatican librarian or something like that,” said Cruz.


— Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.