Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi SJ this morning issued the following statement regarding the meeting of Pope Francis and Kim Davis at the Nunciature in Washington, DC:
"The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:
Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.
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."
The statement follows a short communique issued yesterday in which Father Lombardi said he did "not deny the meeting had taken place", but that "he had nothing more to add."
The Vatican has been keen to play down the meeting, which only came to light after Davis' attorney made the encounter public. Robert Moynihan, editor of the publication “Inside the Vatican,” then broke the story, reporting that Francis offered Davis words of support – “Thank you for your courage” – and told her to “stay strong,” offering rosaries to Davis and her husband.
Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, was jailed for five days over the summer for refusing out of conscience to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June legalized same-sex 'marriage' in all 50 states in its decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Speaking to reporters at the Vatican today, the English language attaché at the Vatican press office, Father Thomas Rosica, shared a little more about what happened.
He said he found it "hard to believe" that the meeting lasted as long as 15 minutes as some media had reported, but that "it's a big story so I hope we [the Vatican] would pay attention to it."
He said he knew of the "negative impact" of the meeting, but added: "The [papal] visit was extraordinary ... and I've been on a lot of papal visits. So to allow this to kind of overshadow it would be very unfortunate. This was one very, very small part of a much greater visit. And you know, the people [the Pope] met in Philadelphia and the people he met in New York - we don't hear much about those. There were also greetings and meetings that took place there."
Father Rosica added: "So my hope is that they put it in perspective, and that this is not the centerpiece of the papal visit. This is one small part of it but it is a loaded centerpiece, but I think what it does is remind us that everything the Pope does is highly symbolic and has ramifications that go far beyond the moment. We have to remember that."
He said such meetings "depend on the host of each place", but he again asked to "put it into perspective", adding that we have a "major event on the way right now" (the Synod on the Family) so that "puts it into perspective. I tried my best to... let's clear this, you know."
Asked if the press office weren't aware of the meeting initially, Father Rosica said: "No, but we may not have been aware of the full impact of this meeting. It's very difficult sometimes when you're looking at things in America from here, you don't necessarily have someone on the ground there to say the import of this. I brought the news right away, saying, 'Look' — I was landing at Fiumicino and there were several hundred messages — 'this is quite serious, so let's evaluate this,' and they were open to that."
Reuters reported an unnamed Vatican official saying there was a "sense of regret" within the Holy See over the encounter, which has led the Pope to seemingly and inadvertently enter into the same-sex "marriage" debate in the United States.
The official told Reuters that Davis had been in a line of people the Pope had met at the Vatican embassy in Washington before he left for New York.
Father Lombardi put out another statement this evening confirming that the Pope met a same-sex couple during his visit to Washington:
"Regarding the Meeting of Pope Francis with Mr. Yayo Grassi in Washington, DC
Mr. Yayo Grassi, a former Argentine student of Pope Francis, who had already met other times in the past with the Pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington, DC. As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue."