RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In recent days, Pope Francis has come face to face with the issue of sexual abuse in the church. Three survivors spent several days with him in the Vatican, including a man named Juan Carlos Cruz.
JUAN CARLOS CRUZ: I know that the topic was very serious, but honestly, it was spending a week in the pope's residence with him living right on top of you and him coming down for lunch like it's nothing and spending hours with me. It was just an experience that I - I don't know. It just surpasses me.
MARTIN: The pope had faced widespread criticism for the issue of sex abuse in the church, and he ordered an investigation into what was happening in the Catholic Church in Chile. Cruz says the pope listened to his story and then told him this.
CRUZ: In this case, I was part of the problem. That's why you're here, and that's why I wanted to see you personally and tell you how sorry I am. And of course, I was a bit choked up, and he just let me be silent or cry, even, or he would just sit there with me and listen to me. And the almost three hours were a very, very frank conversation. It was just like I was talking to my grandfather.
MARTIN: So you got what you were looking for in some ways because he immediately apologized. Did that mean that you didn't confront him about what he knew about the man who abused you and the other priests around him who covered it up?
CRUZ: Not at all. I mean, obviously, the conversation immediately went to those topics, and he was very open. He even asked me and I - I mean, we talked about the culture of abuse and especially the culture of cover-up by bishops. And I told him about some toxic people that he has around him.
CRUZ: Currently, yeah - Cardinal Errazuriz, for example, the Chilean cardinal who is his counsel that's helping him reform the Curia.
MARTIN: The council of cardinals, yeah.
CRUZ: Yes, exactly. And I was very frank.
MARTIN: You and others have alleged this wide-ranging cover-up of abuse that was perpetrated by a man named Fernando Karadima. And among the people you say helped cover up all this abuse is a bishop, Juan Barros. But earlier this year, Pope Francis came out directly in his defense, and in doing so, ended up attacking you personally. Did you address that with Pope Francis?
CRUZ: Yes. The pope in January called me a liar. And first, he apologized for that, of course. But then we talked about it, and I said, Holy Father, you cannot imagine what this does to someone who is trying to tell the truth. I don't ever want for you to fall into what other bishops have been falling, which is blame the survivors, destroy the honor of many victims. And he agreed, of course. And I told him this was not only Barros who watched while we were abused. And the Cardinal Errazuriz, it's unbelievable that he is actually close to you when he has a whole history of covering up and being a terrible person. And that message that you are sending to the world - I don't think it's the one you should be sending.
MARTIN: So when it was all over, did the pope promise that there would be consequences for these people?
CRUZ: I believe that he is going to do something now. What he's going to do, I'll leave it up to him. I'm hoping that whatever he does in Chile means this is the beginning of the end of this culture of abuse and that that is not going to be tolerated anymore.
MARTIN: You wrote on Twitter, today, I have more hope in the future of our church, even though the task is enormous. What does give you hope - these assurances you believe the pope has given you?
CRUZ: Not only that. I met with some other cardinals, and Rachel, it was unbelievable for me to be telling them the perspective of someone who they never get to see, right? We're all names on paper, and here, a man in flesh and blood was telling them my experience and the urgency that there is to deal with this because this cannot wait. There are so many people that are dealing with this right now and that don't get to be heard and don't get to be nurtured, and some end up killing themselves.
MARTIN: How has this changed your faith?
CRUZ: You know, I could not do what I do if it wasn't for my faith. It has kept me strong, and it has kept me a bit sane. It has kept me thinking of others. The most important thing for me was to bring with me the pain, sorrow, the destruction of so many people's lives. I wanted to give the perspective of the survivor, especially for those who are invisible, that for many reasons don't dare to speak up.
MARTIN: Juan Carlos Cruz, thank you so much for talking with us.
CRUZ: Thank you.
MARTIN: Cruz recently spent several days in the Vatican with Pope Francis.
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