Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope Francis challenges vaccine skeptics Pope on Biden communion debate: Bishops shouldn't 'go condemning' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden's .5 trillion plan will likely have to shrink MORE secretly met with the Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples during his visit to the U.S., the Vatican confirmed on Wednesday.
“I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Davis said. “And he said, ‘thank you for your courage.’”
“He told me before he left, he said, ‘stay strong.’ That was a great encouragement. Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we're doing, it kind of validates everything to have someone of that stature,” Davis said.
Francis met with Davis and her husband, Joe, at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, the Liberty Counsel, the group representing the Rowan County, Ky. clerk in her ongoing legal battles over marriage licenses, said in a press release.
"I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?" Davis said, according to the Liberty Counsel. "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."
A Vatican spokesperson confirmed to The New York Times that the meeting took place.
During her meeting with the pope, the clerk, who was jailed for five days last month for refusing to issue the marriage licenses, was reportedly given a rosary and blessed, along with her husband.
Mat Staver, an attorney and founder of the Liberty Counsel, told the Times that Davis and her husband were sneaked into the embassy by car last Thursday afternoon –– the same day Francis spoke to Congress –– and met with the pontiff for about 15 minutes.
The pope appeared to side with Davis amid her legal struggles by stressing "conscientious objection" extends to government employees on his way home to Rome.
“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection, but yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” Francis said, in Italian.
The White House, which closely followed Francis' remarks on his trip to Washington last week, did not offer a reaction Wednesday to the meeting, but reiterated President Obama's position regarding religious freedom and the equal administration of law.
"Our position about Ms. Davis is quite clear: that the president believes strongly in the rule of law and that's a principle that applies to those that engage in public service" from the presidency on down, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
The Inside the Vatican magazine was first to report the meeting.
- Updated at 2:15 a.m.