Following his announcement earlier this month that trans people can now be baptised and act as godparents, Pope Francis has officially welcomed a group of trans women to the Vatican.
Marking the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor on Sunday, November 19, a group of migrant trans women, several of whom have been sex workers, were invited to dine with the Pontiff.
In the annual event hosted at the Vatican, up to 1,000 poor and homeless guests are selected to attend the meal. Among this year’s invitees was a group of trans women living in the town of Torvaianica, south of Rome.
Prompted by the local priest, the trans women first contacted the Pope during the Covid-19 pandemic, seeking food and other vital assistance.
Along with providing food and hygiene products, the Pope’s chief almsgiver also ensured that the community received vaccinations through the Vatican, as they were ineligible to receive medication through the Italian state support as a result of their immigrant status.
Speaking to the Associated Press about the recent advances made by the church to include trans people, one of the women who attended the meal, Andrea Paola Torres Lopez from Columbia, said, “Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people, they saw us as the devil.”
She continued, “Then Pope Francis arrived and the doors of the church opened for us.”
Claudia Vittoria Salas, a tailor and house cleaner, also shared what it meant to her. “Being a godparent is a big responsibility; it’s taking the place of the mother or father. It’s not a game.”
She added, “You have to choose the right people who will be responsible and capable when the parents aren’t around to send the kids to school and provide them with food and clothes.”
Salas also shared that she had been godparent to three of her nieces and nephews in her home country of Argentina and that she had been forced to take up sex work to put the children through school.
After receiving the request for assistance, Pope Francis, who is Argentinian, asked to meet the women himself. They now regularly attend the monthly general audience and are given VIP seating.
The World Day of the Poor meal, attended by the trans women and other guests, showed Pope Francis’ commitment to treating those most on the margins with utmost dignity. The menu consisted of cannelloni pasta filled with spinach and ricotta to start, meatballs in a tomato-basil sauce and cauliflower puree, and tiramisu with petit fours for dessert.
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