Pope Francis has met with another group of transgender people who have been cared for by a parish church in Rome.
During the Covid pandemic, Blessed Immaculate Virgin parish on the outskirts of Rome began to provide shelter for transgender people in need. Pope Francis has outwardly supported the parish, and has met with members of the transgender community there on three prior occasions.
While there is limited information on the details of this most recent encounter, America reported:
“L’Osservatore Romano said the encounter took place Wednesday on the sidelines of Francis’ weekly general audience. The newspaper quoted Sister Genevieve Jeanningros and the Rev. Andrea Conocchia as saying the pope’s welcome brought their guests hope. . .
“‘No one should encounter injustice or be thrown away, everyone has dignity of being a child of God,’ the paper quoted Sister Jeanningros as saying.”
Back in 2021, Pope Francis personally invited around 50 transgender individuals from the Blessed Immaculate Virgin community to receive Covid-19 vaccines at the Vatican. Earlier in the pandemic, Pope Francis sent his personal almoner to assist the group after they requested financial support. The group was suffering from the economic downfall of the pandemic, and Pope Francis “immediately and personally brought all the necessary help.”
Pope Francis has been praised by some members of the LGBTQ+ community for his positive approaches to this community.
Prior to the most recent audience, the pope hosted a group of six transgender women for a private event. One attendee stated that the meeting with Francis “was emotional” and that the group “felt welcomed.” Back in 2015, Pope Francis met with a transgender man and his fiancée. After feeling excluded from the church following his gender transition, Diego Neria Lejárraga wrote to Francis. The pope stated that the letter “touched his soul” and he set up a private call with Neria Lejárraga.
While Francis has made an effort to connect with the LGBTQ+ community, his stance towards LGBTQ+ issues is mixed. America stated:
“. . . .[H]e has strongly opposed “gender theory” and has not changed church teaching that holds that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” In 2021, he allowed publication of a Vatican document asserting that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since ‘God cannot bless sin.’”
It is difficult to pinpoint Pope Francis’ exact stance on LGBTQ+ issues, since there seems to be dissonance between his views on theology and pastoral practice. While Francis continually makes efforts to engage and minister to LGBTQ+ individuals, he also remains firm in the traditional beliefs of the church regarding marriage and the alleged binary nature of gender.
It is important for Francis to continue to connect with LGBTQ+ individuals, so that the church can properly reconcile with the LGBTQ+ community. His example is giving courage to so many pastoral and hierarchical leaders to also do this kind of outreach. When pastoral practice changes, there is possibility for changes in doctrine to follow.
—Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, August 17, 2022