The pope has strongly upheld church teaching that a marriage is between a man and woman, but he didn’t emphasize that teaching during his trip because he wanted to offer a “positive” message about families to America, Lombardi told reporters.
While he repeatedly endorsed religious freedoms, some of his calls to action have been interpreted as a repudiation of Davis’ insistence on keeping her job even as she refuses to issue marriage licenses, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.
Speaking to Congress, he said “it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.”
On his flight back to the Vatican, reporters pressed Francis to declare if he supports government officials who say they can’t abide by some laws requiring them to issue marriage-licenses to same-sex couples. The pope didn’t mention Davis and said he can’t know the details of such cases, but in general, he defended conscientious objection as 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.
Staver said the pope thanked Davis for her courage, told her to “stay strong” and hugged her. He personally blessed two rosaries and presented one to Davis and one to her husband, Staver said.
Davis’ parents are lifelong Catholics and she gave them the rosaries. Her father said if he lives to be 200 he will never receive a better gift, Staver said.
“It was very encouraging, she was very moved by his kindness, his gentleness and his caring spirit,” Staver said. “She was just overwhelmed by the meeting, humbled by it. There’s not a lot of words to describe that feeling.”