Pope Francis invited a group of trans people to the Vatican to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at Easter, it has been revealed.
The pontiff welcomed 50 people to the Vatican on 3 April to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and they returned later that month to receive their second dose, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski confirmed to the National Catholic Reporter.
Trans people from a parish in Torvaianica were among those who travelled to the Vatican to receive vaccines after Krajewski reached out to local priest Fr Andrea Conocchia, who has been ministering to the local trans community for some time.
Others who were vaccinated as part of the initiative included volunteers, immigrants, refugees, struggling families and single parents.
Juan Carlos Cruz – a survivor of clerical sex abuse who was recently appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors – told RNS that Vatican officials called Pope Francis for guidance when two buses from Torvaianica arrived as part of the vaccine initiative.
Pope Francis reportedly forbid officials from asking trans people about their sex
“Absolutely vaccinate them!” Pope Francis said, according to Cruz. He claimed the pope went on to instruct officials to “ask for their names, ask for anything they need, but do not ask them about their sex.”
According to Conocchia, his trans parishioners reacted with “emotion” when they arrived at the Vatican to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some of them are undocumented, meaning they are not eligible to receive vaccines under Italy’s health service.
Conocchia added: “They were moved to tears and felt remembered, having experienced once again and in a tangible way the closeness and tenderness of the pope’s charity.”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has expressed support for Italy’s trans community. In May 2020, as the world was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, he donated funds to a group of trans sex workers who were struggling as a result of the pandemic’s economic fallout.
It was reported at the time that up to 20 trans women approached Fr Conocchia for help after their work was eradicated by COVID-19. Conocchia helped as many women as he could, but ultimately was unable to offer assistance to them all.
He subsequently wrote to Pope Francis appealing for help for his parish’s embattled trans community, and the pontiff gave the go-ahead for papal almoner Krajewski to sent money to the trans sex workers.
Catholic teaching remains firmly opposed to LGBT+ acceptance
LGBT+ Catholics will watch Pope Francis’s most recent charitable efforts with interest. The Catholic Church has historically been firmly opposed to any acceptance of queer people’s identities, and it still holds firm on its teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered.
Furthermore, there was dismay among queer Catholics in 2019 when the Vatican issued a document that firmly rejected the existence of trans identities, claiming gender fluidity posed a threat to traditional family structures.
There was some hope that the Catholic Church would change its approach to LGBT+ people after Pope Francis became leader in 2013 – however, the Vatican has instead recommitted to its anti-LGBT+ policies and teachings.