The Vatican distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, saying she was one of dozens of people the pope greeted in the U.S. (Timothy D. Easley / AP)

Media commenters misinterpreted last week’s encounter between the pope and the Kentucky clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Vatican says, inaccurately casting the meeting as an endorsement of the clerk’s views.

The statement given by the Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, read in full:

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 New York Times


Ms. Davis’s case has become a focal point in the debate over the tensions between religious liberty and marriage equality in the United States. Her lawyer said in a telephone interview on Friday morning that a church official had initiated the meeting and that he had been told it was at the request of Pope Francis. …

For nearly eight hours, Vatican officials refused to confirm or deny that the meeting had occurred, before finally confirming it on Wednesday afternoon.

The news of the meeting buoyed Christian conservatives — who had been dismayed that the pope, in his emphasis on the poor, barely mentioned issues like abortion and homosexuality during his visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia — and puzzled and angered more liberal observers.

It also led observers of the Vatican to speculate about whether the encounter with Ms. Davis was a signal of support for her cause. Francis has emphasized that he strongly believes in conscientious objection as a human right, a position he reaffirmed on his plane ride home. …

Asked on Friday if the Vatican press office had been unaware that Ms. Davis had met the pope, Father Rosica said: “No, but I think we may not have been aware of the full impact of the meeting. It is very difficult sometimes when you are looking at things in America from here.”

While some observers remain certain that they understand the pope’s intent, such hard knowledge remains elusive. Among other possibilities, was the church — a political organization with a public relations agenda — attempting to improve the pope’s standing among religiously conservative Americans by gently moderating his liberal image?

Read more from the Times here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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