VATICAN CITY — The Vatican turned the tables on the Kim Davis affair Friday: Not only did it distance Pope Francis from her claims that he endorsed her stand on same-sex marriage, it said the only “real audience” Francis had in Washington was with a small group that included a gay couple.
The revelations, doled out during the course of the day, put a new twist on Francis’ encounter with Davis after she and her lawyers insisted that her invitation to meet the pope on Sept. 24 amounted to an affirmation of her cause.
The Davis case has sharply divided the United States, and news of Francis’ meeting with the Kentucky clerk, who went to jail after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, had upended his six-day U.S. tour. During the visit, Francis had tried to steer clear of such hot-button issues, only to see the Davis affair dominate the post-trip news cycle.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, sought to give the Vatican’s take of events in a statement early Friday, saying Francis had met with “several dozen” people at the Vatican’s embassy before leaving Washington for New York.
Davis was among them and had a “brief meeting,” he said. Lombardi said such meetings are common during papal trips and are due to the pope’s “kindness and availability.”
“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Lombardi said.
“The only real audience granted by the pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family,” Lombardi added.
The man, Yayo Grassi, was later identified by The New York Times and CNN as an openly gay Argentine caterer who lives in Washington. In a video posted online, Grassi is shown entering the Vatican’s embassy, embracing his former teacher and introducing Francis to his longtime partner, whom Francis recognized from a previous meeting, as well as an elderly Argentine woman and a few friends from Asia.
Lombardi later confirmed that Grassi had “asked to present his mother and several friends to the pope during the pope’s stay in Washington.”