In an interview with Vida Nueva, a Spanish-language religious magazine, Francis said he had told a group of transgender people, "sois hijas de Dios." The English translation of that phrase is, "You are daughters of God." Though he was speaking to a specific group, it's reasonable to infer that this reflects his general sentiment about transgender people.
In August 2023, Snopes readers searched our site to determine whether Pope Francis had actually said, "Transsexuals are children of God." We found a tweet addressing a variant of the same claim.
Do you agree with Pope Francis' that all LGBT are children of God?
B. No pic.twitter.com/OpsCKoF99k
— Faith Alone Saves ✟ (@faithwillsaveu) August 12, 2023
The underlying claim — that Francis said transgender people are children of God — is true. In an interview with Vida Nueva, a Spanish-language religious magazine, Francis said he told a group of transgender people, "sois hijas de Dios." The English translation of that phrase is, "You are daughters of God." However, that fact deserved additional context.
The images in the above-displayed tweet referenced an authentic article by ANSA, an Italian news agency, with the title, "Transsexuals are children of God says pope." (We explain more about that article below.) However, the images (left) were a digitally manipulated version of a screenshot of the ANSA article (right) to make it seem like the news outlet published photos of the pope with a rainbow Pride flag. Those were AI-generated images, and they did not appear in the real ANSA article.
(X user @faithwillsaveu, ansa.it website)
The ANSA article, which was written in English and based on the Pope's interview with Vida Nueva, read (emphasis ours):
ROME, AUG 4 - Pope Francis has said that transsexuals are also the children of God in a new interview.
"The first time a group of transsexuals came to the Vatican and they saw me, they went away crying, saying I had given them my hand, a kiss," the Argentine pontiff said in an interview with Spanish-language publication Vida Nueva given before he arrived in Lisbon this week for World Youth Day.
"As if I had done something exceptional for them. But they are the children of God".
We found the Italian version of the same news story by ANSA. Compared to the above-transcribed English article, the Italian article provided a more broad overview of Francis' interview with Vida Nueva. Also, the Italian version the in-question quote read, "Sono figlie di Dio," which means, "They are daughters of God." (Note: Most English-language translations of the Pope's remarks used the term "transsexuals." Following The Associated Press' Stylebook, Snopes uses the term "transgender people" instead.)
The interview occurred shortly before the Pope's appearance in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023 to celebrate the Catholic Church's "World Youth Day." Before leaving the Vatican, he said, according to Vida Nueva's article (emphasis ours):
Por eso, no me preocupa que algunos me echen en cara que recibo en la audiencia general de los miércoles a transexuales. Vienen de la mano de sor Geneviève Jeanningros, una monja francesa de las Hermanitas de Jesús de Carlos de Foucauld entregada a la pastoral circense. La primera vez que vinieron y me vieron, salieron llorando, diciendo que les había dado la mano, un beso… Como si hubiera hecho algo excepcional con ellas. ¡Pero si son hijas de Dios! Él te sigue queriendo así, como sos. Jesús nos enseña a no poner límites.
Here's Snopes' English translation of that passage:
For this reason, I am not worried that some will throw me in the face that I receive in the general audience on Wednesdays for transgender people. They come from the hand of Sister Geneviève Jeanningros, a French nun of the Little Sisters of Jesus of Carlos de Foucauld dedicated to the circus ministry. The first time they came and saw me, they left crying, saying that I had given them a hand, a kiss... As if I had done something exceptional with them. But they are daughters of God! He still loves you just the way you are. Jesus teaches us not to set limits.
In the August 2023 interview, the pope was referring to one of several meetings with transgender people the previous year, as documented by The Associated Press. The AP reported on Aug. 11, 2022:
Pope Francis has met with a fourth group of transgender people who found shelter at a Rome church, the Vatican newspaper reported Thursday. [...]
Francis previously met with some of them on April 27, June 22 and Aug. 3, the newspaper said. [...]
Francis has earned praise from some members of the LBGTQ community for his outreach. When asked in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, he replied, "Who am I to judge?" He has met individually and in groups with transgender people over the course of his pontificate.
But he has strongly opposed "gender theory" and has not changed church teaching that holds that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered." In 2021, he allowed publication of a Vatican document asserting that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since "God cannot bless sin."
That 2022 report, which was published roughly a year before the Vida Nueva interview, noted that the pope has "spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgender people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompaniment by the church."
A recorded version of the 2023 interview with Vida Nueva was available via the outlet's YouTube channel. (The written article by Vida Nueva mentioned above did not quote Francis verbatim.)
While watching the video of the interview, Snopes focused on the moment Francis said the in-question passage. Below is the original Spanish transcription of Francis' words and their English translation (emphasis ours):
Spanish transcription: Me echan en cara que en la audiencia general vienen las trans. Las trae una monja francesa, Geneviève , que es la monja que está allá en el circo [en Ostia] que vive en una roulette con otras dos monjas de Foucauld. Estas se dedican a las trans, entre otras cosas en el circo y me las traen. La primera vez las chicas salieron llorando. Me dieron la mano y decían. "Le di la mano al Papa y me dio un beso.." ¡Sois hijas de Dios! Allá tu vida... Las sigue queriendo así como son.
English (translation): They throw me in the face that the trans come to the general audience. They are brought by a French nun, Geneviève, who is the nun who is there in the circus [in Ostia] who lives in a roulette with two other nuns from Foucauld. These are dedicated to trans, among other things in the circus and they bring them to me. The first time the girls came out crying. They shook my hand and said "I shook hands with the Pope and he kissed me.." You are daughters of God! Over there, your life... He continues to love them just as they are.
In sum, the pope said he told members of the group they are "daughters of God." It is reasonable to infer that Francis holds the same sentiment for all transgender people. We have therefore rated this claim a "Correct Attribution."