TORVAIANICA, Italy — In a small, seaside town south of Rome, a remarkable relationship has blossomed between a group of trans women and Pope Francis, offering them a sense of help and hope during the darkest times of the pandemic. This community of trans women in Torvaianica now enjoys monthly visits to Francis’ Wednesday general audiences, where they are given VIP seats and receive essential items such as medicine, cash, and shampoo. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Vatican even provided transportation for them to receive vaccinations at its health facility, prioritizing their well-being.
Recently, these women had the privilege of joining over 1,000 other impoverished and homeless individuals in the Vatican auditorium as guests of Pope Francis for a special lunch commemorating the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor. The menu, carefully crafted to honor the dignity of those on the margins, consisted of cannelloni pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, meatballs in a tomato-basil sauce with cauliflower puree, and tiramisu for dessert.
For the marginalized transgender community in Torvaianica, this lunch was yet another example of Pope Francis’ commitment to inclusion and outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. Previously, they felt excluded and marginalized by the Church, seen as “the devil” rather than normal people. However, with the arrival of Pope Francis, the doors of the Church opened for them.
One significant initiative by Pope Francis was a document from the Vatican’s doctrine office, asserting that under certain circumstances, transgender individuals can be baptized and can serve as godparents and witnesses in weddings. This document reversed the previous ban on transgender individuals serving as godparents, which was issued by the Vatican doctrine office in 2015. Additionally, Pope Francis recently made a statement suggesting that same-sex couples could receive church blessings, overturning the ban announced in 2021.
These profound gestures of inclusion from Pope Francis have been embraced by LGBTQ+ organizations, as they offer a message of acceptance to a community that has long faced prejudice and discrimination. Despite the official teaching of the Catholic Church that deems homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered,” Pope Francis has consistently emphasized that everyone is a child of God, deserving of love and welcome in the Church.
However, it is worth noting that not all members of the Catholic Church share Pope Francis’ judgment-free stance. During a recent Vatican synod, the language calling for the welcoming of LGBTQ+ Catholics was watered down, reflecting the differing opinions within the Church. Conservative Catholics, including some cardinals, have strongly criticized Pope Francis’ approach.
Nevertheless, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups such as GLAAD and DignityUSA have applauded Pope Francis’ inclusive message, as it has the potential to influence political and cultural leaders to end the persecution and discrimination faced by transgender individuals.
For the trans community in Torvaianica, Pope Francis’ message resonates on a deeply personal level. It is a tangible sign that the pope recognizes them, has listened to their stories, and prioritizes their belonging within the Church. Becoming a godparent, in particular, holds great significance for many transgender women, as it allows them to experience a sense of parental connection and responsibility.
Carla Segovia, an Argentine sex worker, expresses how the new norms from Pope Francis bring her closer to finding serenity and reconciling with her faith. Similarly, Claudia Vittoria Salas, a transgender tailor and house cleaner, has already served as a godparent to her nieces and nephews, highlighting the importance and weight of this role.
The extraordinary friendship between Pope Francis and the trans community in Torvaianica began during the strict Covid-19 lockdown in Italy. In desperate circumstances, the trans women sought help from the local parish priest, Rev. Andrea Conocchia, who gradually got to know them and encouraged them to write letters to Pope Francis explaining their needs. Over time, assistance arrived, and they were eventually invited to receive vaccinations at the Vatican. This encounter marked a significant turning point, as Pope Francis expressed a genuine desire to meet them and acknowledge their presence.
This ongoing relationship between Pope Francis and the trans women of Torvaianica serves as a testament to the transformative power of inclusivity and acceptance. The core message of love and welcome, emanating from the Pope, has brought a renewed sense of hope and belonging to this marginalized community.
Q: What is the significance of Pope Francis’ gesture for the trans women in Torvaianica?
A: Pope Francis’ gestures symbolize a broader message of inclusion and acceptance for the trans women in Torvaianica, acknowledging their humanity and offering a sense of hope and belonging.
Q: How has Pope Francis evolved his position regarding the LGBTQ+ community?
A: Pope Francis has steadily evolved his position to emphasize that everyone, including LGBTQ+ individuals, is a child of God, deserving of love and welcome in the Church.
Q: How have LGBTQ+ organizations responded to Pope Francis’ message?
A: LGBTQ+ organizations have generally welcomed Pope Francis’ message of inclusivity, as it carries the potential to challenge discrimination and offer a more accepting environment for transgender individuals.
Q: What was the significance of the recent document from the Vatican’s doctrine office?
A: The document from the Vatican’s doctrine office reversed previous bans on transgender individuals serving as godparents, allowing them to partake in sacraments and contribute to the faith community.
Q: How did the pandemic strengthen the relationship between Pope Francis and the trans women in Torvaianica?
A: During the pandemic, the trans women sought assistance from the local parish priest, who established a connection between them and Pope Francis. This relationship has since grown, providing support and recognition for the trans community.