'Close to my heart': Pope Francis sends approving email to nun who ministers to trans gender people
Pope Francis has approvingly replied to an email from a nun who works with transgender women, saying he holds the women who are trying to escape prostitution and abuse 'close to my heart'.
According to Crux, the Pope answered an email last week from Sister Monica Astorga, a Discalced Carmelite nun who ministers to the transgender women in his native Argentina.
Last Thursday, Astorga wrote an email to Francis, updating him on the new developments in the ministry she oversees in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen. Astorga informed the Pope that the city authorities had given her a plot of public land, where she planned to build 15 one-room homes for the transgender women she works with.
The nun told Crux that the papel reply came the following day, on Friday.
The Pope reportedly wrote: 'I have you and the convent close to my heart, as well as the people with whom you work, you can tell them that.'
Astorga said that she and the Pope had known one another since 'before he was a bishop'.
The then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolgio visited the convent where she lives in 2009 and told the nun not to abandon the work she was doing there.
She has worked with transgender women since she was asked to speak to one of them, Romina, who arrived at the convent on July 7, 2006.
'I listened to her for two hours without being able to say a word,' Astorga told Crux. 'I invited her to search for others who wanted to leave prostitution, and she came back five days later with four more. I invited them to pray, and then asked them to tell me their dreams'.
She added: 'I felt stabbed when [one of the women] Katy told me, "I want a clean bed where I can die."'
The nun said that she has been unable to 'rest at ease' thinking of what transgender women go through when living on the streets, including abuse and even murder.
'I always say that to accompany one of them, we have to listen to them from the heart.'
Katy today has her own sewing shop, and has been going to AA meetings for over four years, Astorga told Crux.
Since 2006, some 90 transgender women have gone through the convent, and Astorga has no intention of slowing down her work.
Pope Francis has written to the nun before. Some years ago, he sent her a note saying that 'In Jesus' times, the lepers were rejected. They are the lepers of today. Don't leave the frontier work you were given.'
In 2016, during an inflight-press conference coming back from Georgia and Azerbaijan, Francis spoke about a transgender man, whom the Pope welcomed in the Vatican.
'He who was a she, but is a he,' the Pope said, referring to the trans person who had written to him from Spain.
'Life is life, things have to be accepted as they come. Sin is sin,' Francis said. 'Tendencies, hormonal imbalance, have and cause so many problems... we must be attentive. Not to say that it's all the same, but in each case, welcome, accompany, study, discern and integrate. This is what Jesus would do today.'
He added: 'Please don't say that the Pope will sanctify trans [transgender people], because I read the headlines in the newspapers. I want to be clear, this is a problem of morals. It's a problem. It's a human problem that has to be resolved as it can, always with God's mercy.'