Pope Francis met secretly with Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis during his visit to the United States, according to her attorneys and Inside the Vatican magazine.
The Vatican confirmed the meeting, but did not elaborate, the New York Times reports.
“I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no other comments to add,” Vatiacan spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi told the Times.
Davis was jailed after refusing to follow a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She had refused to issue any licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, citing her religious beliefs.
The meeting, which was set-up by Vatican officials, occurred on September 24. Her husband, Joe, was also at the meeting, the Liberty Council said. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, was in D.C. so she could receive a “Cost of Discipleship” award from the Family Research Council.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Meeting Took Place at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC
The meeting took place at the Vatican Embassy on Thursday, September 24, before Pope Francis delivered his address to Congress in Washington, D.C.
They spoke in English, without a translator, the Liberty Council says. “Thank you for your courage.” Pope Francis told Kim Davis, according to her attorneys. “Stay strong.”
Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, told CBS News that photos of the meeting are in the possession of the Vatican. The Vatican has not yet made the photos public.
2. He Asked Davis to Pray for Him & Said He Would Pray for Her
Pope Francis and Davis embraced, and he gave her and her husband each a Rosary that he personally blessed, the Liberty Council said. Davis plans to give the Rosaries to her parents, who are Catholic.
He asked her to pray for him, and she said she would, and then asked that he pray for her, which he said he would, the Liberty Council says.
3. The Pope Told Reporters Conscientious Objection Is a ‘Human Right’
Pope Francis was asked about the Kim Davis case on his flight back to the Vatican, according to the Guardian.
He said conscientious objection is a human right.
“It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right,” Francis said.
“I do not recall all specific cases of conscientious objection. But what I can say, is that conscientious objection is a human right. And if a person does not allow others to be conscientious objectors, then they deny them a right,” he told reporters.
4. Davis Said ‘Of All People, Why Me?’ About the Meeting
Davis said in a statement from her attorneys, “I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Davis continued, “I never thought I would meet the Pope. Who am I to have this rare opportunity? I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him.” Kim said, “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.'”
Inside the Vatican Magazine said about the meeting:
It is not surprising that the Holy Father met Kim Davis. The Holy Father is considered by many to be the father of all Christians. He is a man of compassion, a man ready to listen to and to comfort all who have suffered for their faith. It was the Holy Father’s explicit request to visit a prison in Philadelphia, and he took the time to speak with each of the 100 prisoners he met on that occasion. This is the attitude that prompted the Holy Father to receive Kim, who had been in jail. And her response, from the very first moment of the meeting, showing great affection toward the Holy Father, showed that she responded to this desire of his to comfort her.
The meeting with the Holy Father was a moment of consolation to Kim. It strengthened her conviction, she told me, to obey the law of God, before the law of man. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that, when the human law contradicts the natural law, it is not a valid law.
5. The Liberty Council Says Davis Is a ‘Symbol’ of the Conflict Facing the Christian Church Over Gay Marriage
“The challenges we face in America regarding the sanctity of human life, marriage, and religious freedom are the same universal challenges Christians face around the world. Religious freedom is a human right that comes from God. These values are shared in common by people of faith, and the threats to religious freedom are universal. Kim Davis has become a symbol of this worldwide conflict between Christian faith and recent cultural challenges regarding marriage,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement.
Davis is facing a return to jail after the American Civil Liberties Union claimed in a court filing that she altered marriage licenses issued by her staff, possibly making them invalid.
Inside the Vatican Magazine said in its post about Davis’ meeting with the Pope, “This encounter between Pope Francis and Kim Davis takes on new importance since the ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) has asked that Kim be held in contempt of court. This means that, should the judge agree with the ACLU, Kim could again in coming days be ordered to be held in prison.
“In this sense, the Pope on September 24 clearly ‘wrapped his protective mantle’ around Kim Davis, discreetly, in private, in a way completely hidden from the world, but in a way that was deeply moving for her personally, as a person of conscience.”