A Brazilian priest has used Instagram to share photos of himself with transgender women along with a message of acceptance.
Fr. Julio Lancellotti, who ministers in São Paulo, is well known for his work with people experiencing homelessness and the LGBTQ community. On his Instagram post, Lancellotti wrote to his more than 340,000 followers, “We are all children of God.” He called followers to “always accept, never discriminate.” PinkNews reported:
“The priest is well-known in the country as a well-spoken advocate for equality. He has made a name for himself as a strong ally to the LGBT+ community, and he has repeatedly spoken out in favour of queer people’s rights.”
Lancellotti’s advocacy stems from his work with people experiencing homelessness, the news article reported:
“Lancellotti, 72, has also worked tirelessly with homeless people throughout his long career. In 2018, he won acclaim on social media when he shared a video of himself asking a homeless trans woman for forgiveness for the appalling treatment she had endured at the hands of Brazilian society.”
The priest has received death threats as a result of his work, Global Voices reported. He has also faced legal action:
“In 2017, when current President Jair Bolsonaro was a federal deputy representing Rio de Janeiro, he sued Lancellotti for moral damages after the priest called Bolsonaro ‘racist, sexist, and homophobic’ during a religious address.”
In an interview with Global Voices, Lancelloti tied his work to his Catholic faith:
“‘I have always lived with people on the street, and here in the Archdiocese of São Paulo we believe in the ideas of the Second Vatican Council and the ideas of Puebla, that is, a preference for the poor, for the streets. We create communities with people on the street.'”
Lancellotti’s ministry to trans people on the streets contrasts with the approach of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, which released a document claiming that gender theory seeks to “annihilate the concept of nature Pope Francis has similarly often used some of the same destructive language about “gender ideology” that this document promotes.
The media sometimes portrays trans issues as an elite concern that does not matter to everyday people. The reality is that most trans people are working class and face many economic challenges as a result of being marginalized in society. Often discriminated against in housing and in employment, trans people are in fact more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. Lancellotti’s ministry reflects the Catholic principle of preferential option for the poor, and he has applied it to a community which the church often ignores.
Perhaps the Vatican should follow Lancellotti’s lead and ask trans people for forgiveness.
—Mac Svolos, New Ways Ministry, February 5, 2021