By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican does not deny reports that while in Washington, Pope Francis briefly met with Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses.

Davis, the elected clerk of Rowan County, initially refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples and then stopped issuing them to gay or straight couples, claiming that doing so would violate her Christian religious values after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples have a right to marry.

Davis told ABC News she met the pope Sept. 24 at the Vatican embassy in Washington. “I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Davis told ABC News. “And he said, ‘Thank you for your courage.'”

The clerk said a “church official” phoned and invited her to meet the pope.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement late Sept. 30 saying, “I do not deny that the meeting took place, but I have no comments to add.”

Although Davis’ name was not used, Pope Francis was asked about her case during his news conference Sept. 27 on the flight back to Rome.

“I cannot know all of the cases of conscientious objection that exist,” he said. “But yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is part of human rights.”

“If a person is not allowed to exercise conscientious objection, he is denied a right,” the pope told reporters.

As a follow-up, the reporter asked if that should apply to a government official, and the pope replied, “It is a human right. If the government functionary is a human person, he has that right.”

During his stay in the United States Sept. 22-27, Pope Francis had other private meetings in the nunciature in Washington, the U.N. nunciature in New York and at the seminary in Philadelphia where he stayed. The Vatican announced several of those meetings, including the meetings in Philadelphia with survivors of sexual abuse and with a family of five that drove from Argentina to the World Meeting of Families in a 1980 Volkswagen bus.

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