Pope Francis has sent a supportive message to a nun who does ministry with transgender people in Argentina, continuing their longtime relationship dating back to the years when Francis was not yet pope.
Crux reported that Sr. Mónica Astorga Cremona received the pope’s letter expressing his prayers for new housing for transgender women who experience poverty:
“Formally called the Costa Limay Sustainable complex for transgender women, the new building has 12 studio apartments and is part of a permanent housing solution for around a dozen transgender individuals between the ages of 40-70 who are currently in situations of poverty. . .
“Speaking to Argentine news agency Telam, Astorga Cremona, who has ties with Pope Francis going back to his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires, said she received a letter from the pope backing the initiative.
“According to the nun, she had written to the pope telling him about the inauguration of her new housing complex, and received a reply telling her that, ‘God who did not go to the seminary or study theology will repay you abundantly’ for the work she has done.
“In the brief response, Francis told her that he is praying for her and the transgender women she is assisting, adding, ‘Don’t forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin guide you.'”
Francis’ letter is the second time as pope that he has written in support of Sr. Mónica’s ministry. Three years ago, he sent a letter that said, in part, “I have you and the convent close to my heart, as well as the people with whom you work, you can tell them that.” But the pope knew of Sr. Mónica, has done ministry with transgender women for fourteen years, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. He wrote in 2009 that she should not “leave the frontier work you were given” because transgender women are “lepers of today.” And when he would be nearby, he would visit her, too.
The new housing fulfills a years-long dream for Sr. Mónica who described them as neither a “refuge” nor a “trans home,” but rather as homes given “as if it were rent, but without paying anything and without installments.” Crux reported further:
“As part of the inauguration, Astorga Cremona accompanied each of the new tenants to their doorstep.
“‘They couldn’t even hold the key because of the crying,’ she said, noting that one of the individuals told her the bathroom was bigger than the entire house where they used to live. . .
“Without having to pay rent and with a food basket and a non-contributory pension, some of the tenants are able to get by without working during Argentina’s quarantine during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Others have begun making food, sweets, and preserves to sell while they wait to resume their jobs in different professions, such as hairdressing, or caring for the elderly.”
Sr. Mónica also spoke about the uniqueness of this housing complex, which is managed by her order, the Discalced Carmelites, and the intentional space created to bring light into the women’s lives, telling Newsflare:
“My dream was that [transgender people] have a decent home because they were never given this opportunity, they have no rights to anything. The apartments are very bright, they lived in the dark because we made them live in the dark, because we buried them, and they always lived at night, they have to take advantage of the light, from this place that is unique in the world, there are no houses for trans people anywhere in the world.”
While Pope Francis’ record on LGBTQ issues is mixed, his repeated support for Sr. Mónica and the transgender women she serves are a sign that Francis’ pastoral inclinations and actions are more telling about where he stands than his theoretical dismissals of ‘gender ideology.’
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 20, 2020