Pope Francis sent an email of support to sister Mónica Astorga, a controversial Carmelite from Centenario, Argentina, affirming his support for her ministry with “trans-women”. Francis wrote to the sister after learning that she was building a house for “trans-women”: “You and your convent are close to my heart, as well as the people with whom you are working. You can tell them this.”
The “trans-women” of sister Monica are male homosexual prostitutes and drug-addicts who identify and dress themselves as women. “Trans-women” are transvestites – people who emotionally and psychologically feel that they belong to the opposite sex. Some transvestites have gone on to become “transgenders”, or those who undergo a full sex-change operation.
The controversial nun has focused her ministry on reaching out to the transgender community. She is a member of the Discaled Carmelite Order, a contemplative community.
“I feel that God wants me to accompany the wounded and that’s why I take responsibility. They often tell me I stand with them; it’s that I feel that from that place I can understand them. Because when we look at them from the other side, it’s impossible. I get in deep,” the sister adds.
She started her ministry in December 2005, when her bishop referred to her case Romina, a “trans-woman” who approached the church at the time and wanted to donate a tenth of her wages. Sister Monica narrates: “When the priest asked her where it came from, she told him from prostitution, and she explained that that was the only work she could get. At that point, the priest called me and told me about the case.”
Since then, she has focused her ministry on transgenders, and has affirmed that Pope Francis knows of the work she is carrying out and supports her. In the email that the Pope wrote to her, he said: “In Jesus’ time, the lepers were rejected like that. They [the trans women] are the lepers of these times. Don’t leave this work on the frontier that is yours.”
She told that Pope that was merely “making trouble”, as the Pope had called on young people during his trip to World Youth Day Brazil: “I told the Pope that, although he urged young people to make trouble, I’m the one who’s doing it.”