Addressing reports that Pope Francis met privately with controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis during his U.S. visit, the Vatican isn't denying the meeting took place. Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, says she met the pope at the Vatican embassy in Washington.
Offering no comment on the previously unannounced meeting, the Vatican would neither confirm nor deny that it took place.
"I never thought I would meet the Pope," Davis said via her legal team. "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."
The meeting is said to have occurred last Thursday, the same day Francis addressed Congress. Davis was in Washington for another purpose, as well: she received a Cost of Discipleship award at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit on Friday night.
From Rome, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports:
"News of the 15-minute-long meeting was first reported by the conservative magazine Inside the Vatican. Kim Davis told the editor Pope Francis thanked her for her courage, hugged her and told her, 'Stay strong.'
"Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi did not deny the meeting took place but would not comment further.
"Throughout his visit to the United States, Francis carefully skirted hot-button issues polarizing American society.
"On his flight back to Rome, the pope was asked during a press conference if he would support government officials who say they cannot in good conscience discharge their duties — for example, issuing same sex marriage licenses.
"Without referring to Kim Davis, the pope said conscientious objection is a right that is part of every human right."
Davis, whose religious identity as an Apostolic Christian falls under the Pentecostal denomination, met Pope Francis along with her husband, according to a statement from Liberty Counsel, the group that's been representing Davis in her legal battles in Rowan County, Kentucky.
The pope gave two rosaries to the Davises, according to Liberty Counsel, which adds that they plan to give them to Kim Davis' parents, who are Catholic.