Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and encouraged her to “stay strong,” according to a press release from Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis. The meeting occurred during the pontiff’s visit to Washington, D.C. on September 24, and took place at the Vatican Embassy. “Thank you for your courage. Stay strong,” Francis told Davis, as he held out his hands and asked her to pray for him. Davis held his hands and said, “I will. Please pray for me.” The two then embraced. Davis was jailed for several days for contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses before finally being released. She has removed her name and title from the licenses, a practice that has been questioned by one of her deputies. “I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Davis said. “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.” Pope Francis was “kind, genuinely caring and very personable,” Davis said. Francis met with Davis and her husband, Joe, speaking to them in English and presenting them with two rosaries he had blessed. Davis’ parents are Catholic and she plans to give the rosaries to them. Francis spent a week in the United States, visiting Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.
After his departure Sunday night, he held a press conference and told journalists aboard his plane that government officials had a “human right” to conscientiously object to signing same-sex marriage licenses. The pontiff made no mention of meeting Davis. “Conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” Francis said. “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right.” That led to speculation in the media of whether the pope was aware of Davis and her situation. “Not only did Pope Francis know of Kim Davis, he personally met with her to express his support,” Mat Staver, founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “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,” Staver said. “Kim Davis has become a symbol of this worldwide conflict between Christian faith and recent cultural challenges regarding marriage.”