A day before Pope Francis’ controversial meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the pontiff had a private meeting with an old friend from Argentina who has been in a gay relationship for 19 years.
Francis met with his friend, Yayo Grassi, and Grassi’s partner, Iwan, at the Vatican Embassy in D.C. on September 23. A video taken during the meeting shows the men greeting each other with a warm hug.
"Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug," Grassi said, according to media reports.
The revelation Friday turned the table on the narrative of Francis' meeting with Davis, who spent a day in jail after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Rowan County.
The day before the Vatican distanced Francis from Davis, saying the encounter was by no means an endorsement of her cause. In the same statement, the Vatican said the only real audience the pope had was with a former student.
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"That was me," Grassi told CNN.
Grassi added that the pontiff taught him literature and psychology classes at Inmaculada Concepcion high school in Sante Fe, Argentina, from 1964-1965. The Argentinian added that Francis knew Grassi was gay but never condemned his sexuality or his same-sex relationship.
"He has never been judgmental," Grassi said. "He has never said anything negative."
After days of confusion, the Vatican issued a statement Friday with its version of Francis' Sept. 24 encounter with the Kentucky county clerk.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis met with "several dozen" people at the Vatican's embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York.
Lombardi said such meetings are normal on any Vatican trip and are due to the pope's "kindness and availability." He said Francis really had only one "audience" in Washington: 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," Lombardi said.
Davis said earlier this week that she and her husband met briefly with the pope at the Vatican's nunciature in Washington and that he thanked her for her courage and encouraged her to "stay strong."
"Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything," she told ABC.
The Vatican statement made clear the pope intended no such validation.
The AP contributed to this report.