Pope Francis continues to create newsworthy moments even after his first visit to the United States through a meeting with controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis.
Davis, who previously spent six days in jail after denying marriages licenses to same-sex couples in her county, sat down with the Pope in a private meeting held Thursday at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, according to the Liberty Counsel website. Mathew D. Staver, Davis’s lawyer, also confirmed on Tuesday that the meeting did take place and lasted for about ten minutes.
Pope Francis thanked Davis for her courage and advised her to stay strong. The Supreme Pontiff hugged Davis and her husband Joe and gave them rosaries. “I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Davis told ABC News in an interview on Wednesday.
“I had tears coming out of my eyes,” Davis said. “I’m just a nobody, so it was really humbling to think he would want to meet or know me.”
Staver revealed that the meeting was first discussed on September 14, weeks before the Pope arrived in the U.S., although he refused to disclose which camp initiated the meeting.
Vatican officials and Staver were tight-lipped about the details of the private meeting while the Pope was still in the U.S. as it might prompt other people to question why the Holy Father had to meet with Davis. “We didn’t want the Pope’s visit to be focused on Kim Davis,” Staver explained.
The LGBT community was baffled by the Pope’s meeting with Davis and said that it does not line up with the Pope’s recent stand on gay rights and “inclusion of LGBT people in the church and society.”
— CNN Religion (@CNNbelief) September 30, 2015
Father Benedettini of the Vatican Press office issued a statement soon after reports about Davis and Pope’s meeting surfaced. “The Holy See is aware of the reports of his meeting with Kim Davis. The Vatican does not confirm the meeting, nor does it deny the meeting. There will be no further information given,” the Vatican Press statement reads. But Father Benedettini released another statement saying they do not deny that the meeting occurred but refused to comment on it. The Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. also declined to give a statement concerning the meeting.
Davis has conceded to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, albeit without her name and title on it and with a “pursuant to a court order” note included in the document.
“I’ve weighed the cost and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes, even jail,” Davis boldly said. “It’s still the same battle, we just have some more fighting with us now.”
In his six-day visit, Pope Francis talked about the value of human life. He had a private meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns suing the government over the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) September 24, 2015
He also made important points on religious freedom, which has been an important subject for American conservatives.
When asked about the private meeting between the Pope and Davis, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said their religious liberty does not grant them the freedom to “deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.”
On Sunday, ABC News anchor Terry Morgan asked the Pope if it is right for people, including public servants, to use religious freedom to break the law. Pope Francis pointed out that “conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right… and if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”
“It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right,” Pope Francis elaborated.
[Images by Pool and Ty Wright, Getty Images]