Pope Francis hosted a group of transgender women — many of whom are sex workers or migrants from Latin America — to a Vatican luncheon for the Catholic Church's "World Day of the Poor" last week.
The pontiff and the transgender women have formed a close relationship since the pope came to their aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they were unable to work. Now, they meet monthly for VIP visits with the pope and receive medicine, money and shampoo any day, according to The Associated Press.
"Before, the church was closed to us. They didn't see us as normal people, they saw us as the devil," one member of the transgender group, Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, told the AP.
Some 1,200 people who are impoverished or homeless also attended the luncheon inside the papal audience hall for a full meal and dessert.
The invitation to the transgender women comes as the Vatican released a controversial document earlier this month affirming that individuals suffering from gender-identity disorders are allowed to be baptized or be named as godparents under specific circumstances.
The document is an official response to a dubia submitted by Brazilian Bishop Giuseppe Negri of Santo Amaro seeking guidance on the issue. It was propagated by the Vatican's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by Pope Francis.
However, in a somewhat ambiguous clarification, the guidance specifies that in order for individuals with gender-identity afflictions to be baptized, it must not cause "scandal" or "disorientation."
This same stipulation applied to their eligibility to act as godparents or witness marriages, according to the Vatican. The move was praised by LGTBQ+ advocates.
The ruling's ambiguity is consistent with a variety of theological statements from the Vatican under Pope Francis and can make understanding how to implement the ruling difficult for the clergy.
Father Brian Graebe, a priest with the Archdiocese of New York who holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told Fox News Digital previously that the Vatican's guidance is not contradictory to church teaching, but possibly "deficient."
"There's nothing in the document that contradicts church teachings. My reaction to it when I read it yesterday was that it's deficient. The problem isn't so much in what it says as in what it leaves unsaid," Graebe said.
He continued, "What I was disappointed not to see in the document was affirmation that in the right of baptism itself, whatever name the person has, we call it a Christian name [or] their baptismal name [...] what we must affirm is that the correct biological pronouns are to be used."
The Catholic Church teaches that gender ideology and transgender lifestyles are a "grave disorder" in need of correction through spiritual and secular therapy.
"I think the fact that Pope Francis today allows us to approach baptism with this legislation, or to perhaps take care of our best friend's child, or of friends who ask us to be godfather or godmother, is something that makes us transgender [people] feel more human," Argentine sex worker Carla Segovia said of the pope, Reuters reported.
Fox News' Timothy H.J. Nerozzi contributed to this report.