The Vatican confirmed on Sept. 30 that Pope Francis met with controversial Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis on Sept. 24 during his first visit to the United States.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Vatican, said he would not deny that the meeting occurred, but he refused to elaborate upon what took place during the meeting, USA Today reports. On Sept. 24, the Pope was in Washington, D.C., for most of the day before flying to New York late in the afternoon.
According to her lawyer, Mat Staver, Davis met the pope at the Vatican Embassy in Washington.
Davis made national headlines for her unwavering refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which she claimed conflicted with her Christian beliefs. She was held in jail for contempt of court for five nights after refusing to comply with the federal court order.
“I never thought I would meet the pope," Davis said in a news release, according to USA Today. "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.”
Pope Francis briefly touched on the subject during a press conference as he flew back to Rome, telling reports that he was not familiar with the details of the case, but that conscientious objection is a human right, even for government officials, The Associated Press reports.
Staver told USA Today the Vatican reached out to Davis through other parties, and Davis then contacted him. The lawyer added that the visit with the pope lasted about 15 minutes, during which time pontiff spoke in English.
"He held out his hands and he asked Kim to pray," Staver said. "He thanked her for her courage. He said these words, 'Stay strong,' and then they embraced and hugged."
Staver added that Davis was "amazed" that she invited to meet Pope Francis.
"She never imagined in her life that she would meet with the pope and that itself was just an experience that she will never forget," he said.