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Pope Francis just threw his support behind a small community of Italian transgender sex workers

Patrick Kelleher May 1, 2020
Pope Francis trans sex workers

Pope Francis. (Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis)

Pope Francis has donated much-needed funds to a group of transgender sex workers in Italy who were struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sex workers, particularly those who are undocumented, have been badly hit by the pandemic as many are unable to work or claim benefits.

This was the case for a group of trans sex workers in Italy, who found themselves plunged into poverty by COVID-19.

Two weeks ago, Father Andrea Conocchia was approached by a trans sex worker in his Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Church. He gave her food and basic supplies from Catholic charity Caritas when she asked for help.

The next day the same woman came back — and this time she brought a friend. Over the following days, more and more trans sex workers arrived asking Conocchia to help.

In total around 20 trans women, mostly from Latin America, turned up at Conocchia’s church looking for vital supplies. The majority of the women are sex workers who were left without vital funds to pay for rent and food during the pandemic.

But Father Conocchia was unable to offer enough financial support to help the women weather this storm — so, he sent a message to Pope Francis asking for assistance.

Pope Francis gave money to trans sex workers to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pope gave the go-ahead for papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the administrator of the papacy’s charitable work, to send money to the community of trans women last week.

The women sent an audio message to Krajewski to be played for Pope Francis in which they expressed their gratitude to him.

Most of the women are not Catholic, but have asked Father Conocchia to pray with them. He told Religious News Service that it is important “not to be judgmental”.

“This is a health emergency, but also a social emergency,” Conocchia said.

Let’s try not to turn it into a human emergency. We must remain human.

He added: “I would say that we treat these (transgender) people as if they were invisible.

“If the coronavirus had never happened, I might have never met them in person, they might have never asked for help in a church and maybe we wouldn’t have had the chance to dialogue, know each other and share.”

Meanwhile, Krajewski told Reuters that this kind of work is “ordinary” for the Catholic Church.

“This is how the Church is a field hospital,” he said.

He also said that some of the trans women who sought help are “really in difficulty” as they have had their passports taken away by “mafia pimps who control them.”

Krajewski praised the trans women for “having the courage to ask for help from the parish”.

“This is the heart of the heart of the gospel,” he said. “From the heart of Jesus comes mercy through concrete actions toward every one of us, precisely because we are human beings.”

The Vatican has been a staunch opponent to trans rights.

The news will come as a surprise to many as the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis himself, have had a chequered relationship with the LGBT+ community.

Just last year, the Vatican released a document which firmly rejected trans identities and insisted gender fluidity posed a threat to the traditional family structure.

The document decried “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies”.

The Catholic Church has never been pro-LGBT+. It is firmly opposed to gay sex, same-sex marriage and trans rights, but when Pope Francis assumed the papacy in 2013 many expressed hope that he could change that.

But hopes that Pope Francis would liberalise the institution have largely been dashed, as little progress has been made.

While Pope Francis has been notably less hostile to LGBT+ identities than his predecessors, no major policy changes have occurred under his watch.

More: Andrea Conocchia, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Pope Francis

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