Transgender Community in Italy Celebrates Vatican’s Historic Announcement

A community of transgender women in Italy has celebrated a recent statement by the Vatican announcing that trans people can now be baptized in the church, among other landmark changes for trans-Catholics. 

Another Change for the Church

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Last week, the Vatican released an official statement declaring that trans people can now receive baptism, act as Godparents during baptisms, and be witnesses for wedding ceremonies. The announcement was an enormous move for social progress in the church, and a community of trans women in Italy spoke out about the “fantastic” set of rules that would affect their lives as Roman Catholics.

Lunching With the Pope

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Claudia Victoria Salas and Carla Segovia were two of a group of transgender people who were invited to a lunch hosted by the Pope on the Church’s World Day of the Poor. They arrived at the Vatican alongside 1,200 other poor and homeless people.

Impossible Prospects Made Possible

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Meeting with the Pope in the holy city might have seemed impossible ten years ago for these women. And the new rules that bring more inclusion for trans people in the church were just as exciting.

We Feel More Human

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“We transgenders here in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing,” Segovia said. “Because we need some love.” 

A Fantastic Opportunity

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“This is a fantastic opportunity for us transexuals,” Salas added emphatically. To her surprise, she had been seated directly opposite the pope during the meeting and lunch.  “I send the Pope a big kiss!”

Difficult Circumstances

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Segovia and Salas are Argentinian immigrants living in Torvaianica, a seaside town south of Rome and the Vatican. They and most of the other trans women who attended their lunch were Latin-American immigrants, and many were also sex workers.

A Local Priest Reaches Out

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These women were invited to the lunch after forming a relationship with a local Catholic priest, who offered his assistance to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, their relationship has flourished, culminating in the invitation to the Vatican. 

Father Conocchia

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Father Andrea Conocchia, pastor of the Blessed Immaculate Virgin parish in Torvaianica, reached out to the local transgender community, many of whom live in poverty, to offer food and resources. Since parish resources were already limited, Conocchia contacted a cardinal who runs charities for the pope. 

Going Above and Beyond

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Not only did this cardinal help with resources, but he also arranged for the women to have their COVID-19 vaccinations in the Vatican and eventually to lunch with the Pope. “For us, he is our saint,” Salas said when discussing Conocchia.

New Pope, New Approach

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The experience of these Torvaianica trans women has served to highlight how the Catholic church’s approach to LGBTQ issues has changed over the years. Since his appointment to the head of the Vatican in 2013, Pope Francis has gained a reputation for being one of the most progressive and inclusive leaders the church has seen.

Not Everyone is Happy

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But while the women of Torvaianica and the international LGBTQ community at large have welcomed the new statement, those on the more conservative side of the church are not happy with the new rules. 

Consequences for Texas Bishop

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Earlier this month, Texas bishop Joseph Strickland was “relieved” of his position in the church after criticizing Pope Francis’ newest progressive reforms. He accused the Pope of “undermining the Deposit of Faith” and shared videos on social media that called him a “diabolically disordered clown.”

It’s Not a Crime

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The 86-year-old Pope has ushered in initiatives to make the church more inclusive while trying to uphold the teachings of the church, with varying results. In January, he called to welcome LGBTQ people to the church. He spoke out against the criminalization of homosexuality that still exists in many countries, stating that “being homosexual is not a crime.” He has also suggested that the church may eventually bless same-sex marriages.

Meaningful Gestures

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However much controversy may arise, these initiatives from Pope Francis have been a meaningful gesture for trans women and other LGBTQ Catholics who have often felt shunned and rejected by the church. 

Opening Doors

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“Before, the church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people, they saw us as the devil,” says Colombian immigrant and trans woman Andrea Paola Torres Lopez.  “Then Pope Francis arrived, and the doors of the church opened for us.”

The post Transgender Community in Italy Celebrates Vatican’s Historic Announcementfirst appeared on Wealthy Living.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / AM113. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.