Pope Francis Reportedly Fires Ambassador To U.S. Over Meeting With Kim Davis

The Vatican is reportedly replacing Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who arranged the meeting between Pope Francis and Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, as the papal ambassador (nuncio) to the United States, sources said on Friday.

Archbishop Viganò, a staunch conservative and vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, has been controversial throughout his five-year term as the Vatican's ambassador. He notably sent the anonymous invite to Kim Davis, the clerk who garnered media attention by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, to meet with Pope Francis last fall, DailyKos reports. Now, according to The Advocate, word is coming out that the Davis incident may have prompted the Pope to replace Viganò.

The Italian Archbishop will leave the position of apostolic nuncio to be replaced by Christophe Pierre, a French-born Archbishop who currently serves as nuncio to Mexico, according to the Jesuit news source America magazine, citing blogger and veteran Vatican news-watcher, Sandro Magister.

Pope Francis Reportedly Fires Ambassador To US Over Meeting With Kim Davis
A view of St. Peter's Square as Pope Francis speaks. [Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]Though the Holy See has made no official statement and is not expected to confirm the news before it receives the Obama administration's approval for the new ambassador, many are choosing to interpret the reports as evidence of Pope Francis' efforts to modernize the Vatican. Interestingly, according to The Washington Post, while Viganò had had a strong emphasis on opposing same-sex marriage, Pierre seems to have a focus on immigration issues, in part because of his experience in Mexico.
"Pierre, 70, who was born in France, speaks fluent English and has served the Catholic Church as a diplomat all over the world, dating to 1977, America reported. His most recent job — following terms as nuncio to Uganda and Haiti — is nuncio to Mexico. In moving from Mexico to the United States, he might bring to Washington an emphasis on immigration issues, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border where Pope Francis recently visited to offer a prayer."
The Advocate noted that Archbishop Viganò will soon reach the statutory retirement. When bishops and archbishops reach the age of 75, they are required to submit a letter of resignation which may or may not be accepted depending on circumstances.
"Viganò turned 75 in January; when bishops and archbishops reach that age, they are required to submit a letter of resignation to the Vatican. Not all such resignations are accepted, and some clergy members continue their work for many more years, but it appears that Viganò will not."
Rumors abound that the reason for Viganò's apparent imminent dismissal goes back to the meeting Kim Davis last fall.

Pope Francis Reportedly Fires Ambassador To US Over Meeting With Kim Davis
Pope Francis waves to the crowd in St. Peter's Square. [Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]Davis is a clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who became a symbol for right-wing opposition to same-sex marriage in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling and disobeyed a federal judge's ruling to resume issuing marriage licenses, eventually landing her in prison for contempt of court. Davis and her husband claimed to have met with Pope Francis, who told them to "stay strong." News quickly reported on the alleged meeting, resulting in a media fire storm, a nationwide debate, and speculation on the Pope's actual stance.

The Vatican, for its part, has since claimed the alleged meeting was portrayed deceptively by the Davises and their attorneys with Liberty Council, according to a separate report by The Advocate. A spokesman said that the Pope was "blindsided" by the meeting, that the Davises were among several dozen people at a reception during the Pope's visit to the U.S. and were not given a private meeting, and that the Pope did not discuss or express support of Davis' situation.

Davis was invited by Viganò, and the meeting took place at his D.C. residence. There is speculation Viganò kept the Pope "in the dark" regarding the presence of the Davises and how it would be interpreted.

Sources expect the official announcement regarding the ambassador to be made before Easter Sunday, which is on March 27 this year.

[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]