The Vatican has given money to a group of transgender sex workers in Italy who are struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gay.it, an Italian LGBTQ newspaper, reported the trans sex workers in Torvaianica, a coastal city that is outside of Rome, approached a parish priest last month and asked him to help them buy food.
Reuters reported the nationwide lockdown the Italian government imposed on March 9 to curb the pandemic in the country has depleted the parish’s resources. The priest therefore sent the trans sex workers’ request to Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who oversees the Vatican’s charities.
Krajewski sent an undisclosed amount of money to the parish.
“I don’t understand why this is getting so much attention,” Krajewski told Reuters on April 30 during a telephone interview. “This is ordinary work for the church, it’s normal. This is how the church is a field hospital.”
Gay.it said roughly 20 trans sex workers — mostly from Latin America — benefitted from the donation. The Italian LGBTQ newspaper also reported many of them thanked Pope Francis in audio messages they sent to Krajewski.
“In this case, the Pope made a human action,” Tiziana Fisichella, coordinator of Milan Pride, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in a WhatsApp message. “He looked beyond social stigma and took care of people forgotten by society.”
The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ-specific issues has moderated since Francis became pope in 2013. Church teachings on them, however, have not changed.
Activists have repeatedly criticized Francis over his comments against “gender ideology.” Media reports this week also indicate former Pope Benedict XVI in an authorized biography reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Fisichella told the Blade the Vatican’s donation to the trans sex workers in Italy “alone cannot repair the social damage of their statements.”
“We know how influential the statements of the church are,” she added. “Catholic judgment is a strong deterrent to obtaining equal rights. Sure, it’s not the only problem, but a big part (of it.)”