Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis held a secret meeting with Pope Francis during his recent trip to the United States, she and her attorney said late Tuesday.
Davis, a Kentucky clerk who was jailed for five days after being found in contempt of court for enforcing a “no marriage licenses” policy after the Supreme Court’s ruling for same-sex marriage, reportedly met Francis last Thursday at the Vatican Embassy in D.C.
“I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Davis said in a statement. “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. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.'”
Also reportedly at the meeting, where Francis was said to have spoken in English, was Davis’ husband Joe Davis.
According to the Liberty Council, a conservative legal firm representing Davis, Francis told the clerk “Thank you for your courage.” He reportedly held out his hands and asked Davis, an Apostolic Christian, to pray for him. Davis was said to have held his hands and said, “I will. Please pray for me,” and Francis reportedly agreed to do so.
After the two embraced, the pope presented Kim and Joe Davis each with a rosary he personally blessed. According to Liberty Counsel, Kim Davis’ parents are Catholic and she intends to present the rosaries to her parents. Kim’s mother was clerk of court for Rowan County for 37 years until she retired last year.
Mat Staver, chair of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement Davis has become a symbol for Christians throughout the world facing hardships because of their beliefs.
“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,” Staver said. “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.”
According to the New York Times, Staver said in a phone interview the couple met with the pope for about 15 minutes. Staver asserted photographers were present at the meeting and he expects to receive pictures soon from the Vatican proving the exchange took place.
Staver said Vatican officials arranged the meeting, not bishops or the U.S. Conference of Catholic of Catholic Bishops, the Times reported. Staver reportedly would not identify the Vatican officials.
When the Washington Blade contacted the Vatican Embassy in the United States, a receptionist who refused to divulge her name said the embassy doesn’t deny the meeting took place, but declined further comment.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on the reported meeting.
Francis reportedly held the meeting with Davis on the same day he delivered a speech on the U.S. House floor before a joint session of Congress and said “the very basis of marriage” is being called into question, although he didn’t explicitly mention same-sex marriage.
Davis was in D.C. at the same time as the pope’s visit because she made an appearance at the Values Voter Summit, where she was honored with the “Cost of Discipleship” award by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.
On his return flight to Rome after visiting Philadelphia, Francis was asked whether public officials should be able to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples out of religious objections. The pope replied, “If a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.”
Although there was speculation the pope may not have even been aware of Davis in responding to the question, Staver said in a statement there’s no doubt because of the meeting.
“Not only did Pope Francis know of Kim Davis, he personally met with her to express his support,” Staver said.