For Fourth Time, Pope Francis Meets with Transgender Community at Roman Parish

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

3 replies
  1. Peter J Daly
    Peter J Daly says:

    Why can’t some of our parishes in the USA, especially here in Washington DC, do the same thing and offer housing and refuge to transgender people who are often targets.

    Reply
  2. Ann Marie Connolly
    Ann Marie Connolly says:

    Dissonance is the perfect word to describe the disconnect between Pope Francis’ continuing pastoral outreach to the LGBTQ community and his unstinting affirmation of the rigidity of Church doctrine. It is difficult to not question the depth of his commitment to steer the Church in a more compassionate, Christ-like direction! Reports of Synodal responses from a wide range of Catholic communities emphasize that the issue of exclusion/moral disapproval of those whose sexual orientation or gender identity veers from the traditional “norm” is a cause of great concern (even promoting many to exit the Church)! We need clarity and true Good Shepherd leadership!

    Reply
  3. Fr. Scott Hill
    Fr. Scott Hill says:

    Until that day of “A-ha!”, I did not live my young life any differently than my young peers. Only in my adolescence did I learn a name for my attraction for men. I learned I am gay! It’s taken me some 70 years to embrace my non-dualistic life. I have been conditioned to think and live a dualistic life (gay/straight; male/female; non-gender conforming/gender conforming, etc.) Over the years I have learned life and sexuality are more fluid than our American culture or the church has lead me to believe. How one identifies is much more complex than rigid gender identifications. Many complain that Pope Francis sends “mixed” messages regarding my Queer Community. I observe from the Pope’s different responses towards my Community an understanding of the complexity of being Queer. I believe Pope Francis is well aware of the harmful accusations that being Gay or Queer is an “intrinsic disorder” (it pains to even mention this cruel and unjust judgement!), yet he has chosen the pastoral over some philosophical argument. Pope Francis’ engagement with my community acknowledges that being human and Queer is complex. Rigid understandings of being human, identifying in non-dualistic terms, serves only to isolate and relegate one to the margins of society and the church. I find in Pope Francis’ actions a courageous willingness, an option to hold the complexity of the human condition, especially the fluidity of sexuality. Pope Francis, I find, holds the complexity of humanity and being sexual being with humble welcome and engagement.

    Reply

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