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Intimate profile of marginalized trans community stresses Pope Francis’ gesture of inclusion

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It’s not unusual these days for Pope Francis to make overtures to minorities that often feel rejected, or neglected, by the Catholic Church. But as soon as the Vatican delivered the latest gesture stating that transgender people can be baptized, the AP team in Rome set off to go beyond the obvious headline. The most significant part of the announcement, first reported with the help of AP’s Religion team, would be the fact that trans people were being openly admitted as godparents, Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield pointed out.

Rome producer Trisha Thomas saw the opportunity to dig deeper and follow up with a profile of a very special group of trans women who seemed to have befriended the pope during the pandemic, showing up every so often at the pontiff’s weekly audiences. Thomas, Winfield, Rome photographers Andrew Medichini and Gregorio Borgia, cameraman Paolo Lucariello and news assistant Silvia Stellacci made several trips to the seaside town of Torvaianica, near Rome, to interview some of the women, many of whom are Latin American migrants and work as sex workers. The women shared their stories about finding peace through the new norms and experiencing a level of acceptance within the faith that they were baptized in but might have fallen away from after coming out as trans. 

The all-formats piece was planned for a later stage, but the team went out of their way to work over the weekend and to make sure the piece was ready for Sunday, when the women joined over 1,000 other poor and homeless people as Francis’ lunch guests at the Vatican to mark the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor. Thomas’ persistence and empathy allowed for her to be invited by the women on the bus as they headed to the Vatican, and the AP was allowed to sit at the same table as the women and to witness their interactions with the pope, providing material for the story and video.

For exemplary visual storytelling and providing intimate portraits of the women who helped move the Vatican’s attitude on trans issues, the team of Thomas, Winfield, Medichini, Lucariello, Borgia and Stellacci are Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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