By BERT HOOVER
This gathering took place as part of the Catholic Church’s “World Day of the Poor.”
The pope and these transgender women have developed a close relationship, which originated during the COVID-19 pandemic when the pontiff assisted them when they were unable to work.
Now, they have monthly VIP visits with the pope and receive support in the form of medicine, money, and other essentials.
The luncheon was a broader event, with around 1,200 impoverished or homeless individuals also attending inside the papal audience hall to enjoy a full meal and dessert.
This invitation to transgender women aligns with a recent Vatican document that generated controversy.
Released earlier in the month, the document affirms that individuals dealing with gender identity disorders are permitted to be baptized or serve as godparents under specific conditions.
While responding to a query from Brazilian Bishop Giuseppe Negri of Santo Amaro, the guidance from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by Pope Francis, maintains that the baptism or involvement as godparents must not cause “scandal” or “disorientation.”
This nuanced stipulation has been praised by LGBTQ+ advocates.
Pope Francis: ‘Who Am I to Judge?’
Prominent LGBTQ+ organizations are applauding Pope Francis for his message of inclusivity, recognizing that gay and transgender individuals have historically felt marginalized within a church that officially characterizes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered.”
Francis has been on a trajectory toward greater acceptance, starting with his notable “Who am I to judge” remark in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, AP reports.
In January, he reinforced this stance by asserting that “being homosexual is not a crime.”
The pope has consistently evolved his position, emphasizing that everyone, unequivocally, is a child of God, loved by God, and welcomed in the church – a sentiment expressed with the resounding declaration, “todos, todos, todos” (everyone, everyone, everyone).
However, this judgment-free perspective isn’t universally shared within the Catholic Church.
A recent synod, a gathering of bishops and laypeople at the Vatican, stopped short of explicitly advocating for the welcoming of LGBTQ+ Catholics.
Pope Francis’ approach has faced strong opposition from conservative Catholics, including cardinals.
Despite internal divisions, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups like GLAAD and DignityUSA see Pope Francis’ inclusive tone as a powerful message.
They believe it could encourage political and cultural leaders to cease the persecution, exclusion, and discrimination against transgender individuals.
Lunch with Pope Francis
Latin America migrants and sex workers had the opportunity to share a meal with Pope Francis featuring cannelloni pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, followed by meatballs in tomato-basil sauce and tiramisu for dessert, THEM noted.
“We transgenders in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing,” Carla Segovia, a 46-year-old sex worker from Argentina, said, expressing gratitude.
Claudia Vittoria Salas, a trans tailor and house cleaner from Argentina, had a personal connection to the recent declaration by the Catholic Church regarding trans godparents.
She shared that she had previously worked as a sex worker to support her nieces and nephews, to whom she served as a godparent. She found herself seated next to Pope Francis during the lunch.
“Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people; they saw us as the devil. Then Pope Francis arrived, and the doors of the church opened for us,” Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a trans woman from Colombia, said, reflecting on the changing perception of the church.
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