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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Italy's gay news media is applauding Pope Francis for his rapid response to an appeal from migrant transsexual prostitutes facing hard times on the streets of Rome following the Wuhan virus outbreak.
Around 20 transsexual migrants from Latin America, living rough in the parish of Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Conception of Torvaianica, Rome, approached the parish priest, Fr. Andrea Conocchia, for help after their business took a hit in March.
Father Conocchia said the sex workers "no longer had customers and did not know how to pay the rent or buy something to eat. I was amazed but did not hold back." The priest responded with financial and spiritual help.
"Most of them come from Latin America and live the faith here in Italy as if they were still in Argentina, Peru, Brazil. Often they bring me holy pictures or water to bless," he noted.
"I told these friends, some of whom are Argentine, to write to Pope Francis," Conocchia told Gay News. They wrote "beautiful letters in Spanish in which they told their stories of solitude, of estrangement from families, of discrimination and of prostitution, in some cases, at a very young age."
"For example, one of them started at 14 and 30 years have passed since then. But they also told stories of faith and deep Marian devotion with requests to the pope to pray for them, ensuring that they did it for him," the priest said, adding that "they even drew hearts in their letter."
Meanwhile, Fr. Conocchia contacted papal almoner Cdl. Konrad Krajewski, who is responsible for charitable activities on behalf of the pope. Krajewski informed Francis and the pope immediately responded with a "cash offer to pay bills, pay the house rent or buy basic necessities."
This is "a gesture that once again shows how people count for the pope: He looks at nouns and not adjectives. And that reminds us priests how the heart of the gospel message is mercy," Conocchia said.
"When they received the envelope, the joy was immense, so much so that the trans people sent an audio message to the pope through Cdl. Krajewski in Spanish with each one thanking the pope in his own way," he added.
Some of the messages sent to the Holy Father included the transsexuals saying: "Many thanks to Pope Francis," "May God bless you," "May the Virgin protect you."
"They love Bergoglio very much. They also have faith. I was moved by the image of one of them who began to pray on his knees before the Virgin. Someone even asked me to bless loved ones," the priest said.
Torvaianica, a hamlet in the comune of Pomezia, Rome, has a population of 12,700 inhabitants. Since the beginning of the Wuhan virus emergency, many of the locals are experiencing poverty and "many people knock on the gate every day to ask for a pack of pasta or food to feed their children," Fr. Conocchia said.
"Every day at least a dozen people queue up, wearing masks and keeping their distance, to get help. Someone asks for food, someone else asks for help with rent. With my collaborators we do what we can," the parish priest told the local newspaper.
"Here in Torvaianica the situation is difficult for many, and every day the gate is open to everyone. The Pope asked us to help, but even earlier, Jesus asked us to care for the poor," he emphasizes, adding:
"It is bad to see a Church divided on the reopening of the Masses with the people. But if we do not materialize that love for our neighbor, with what courage can we go back to Mass? At the end of our lives, we will be judged on love, on what we have done for others. This time is truly precious, let's not waste it."
The pope's almoner has been involved in a wide range of charitable activities and distributed over 3.5 million euros to people in material distress in 2018.
A source told Church Militant that the group most likely included those afflicted with gender confusion.
While calling Catholics to love those who struggle with gender orientation, Francis has condemned gender ideology.
In 2016, while flying back from Georgia and Azerbaijan, the pontiff criticized what he called the "wicked" push of gender theory in schools, but stressed that individuals who struggle with their sexual identity ought to be treated with mercy, as Jesus would do.
Francis recounted how a Catholic father once told him that as he was sitting at the table with his children, he asked his 10-year-old son what he wanted to be when he grew up.
When the son replied "a girl," he realized his son was being taught gender theory in school. "This is against the natural things," Francis noted. "It is one thing for a person to have this tendency ... but it's another thing to teach this ... in schools in order to change the mentality. This is what I call ideological colonization."