The Vatican on Friday distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, saying she was one of dozens of people who met with the pontiff on his visit to the United States and that their meeting was not an endorsement.
"The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Ms. 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," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
Friday’s announcement clears up days of speculation over Davis's 15 minutes at the Vatican's embassy in Washington on Sept. 24, which suggested to many that the pontiff condoned her decision as a Kentucky county clerk to defy a US Supreme Court order to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
During the meeting, Francis gave Davis a rosary, reportedly telling her "to 'stand strong,'" according to The Christian Science Monitor.
Since it had also come just days after another meeting he had with nuns opposing a government mandate on contraceptives, the encounter was not wholly unfitting with Francis’s style of reaching out to “people he calls on the 'peripheries,'" The Monitor reported.
The pope also said "Conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right," according to NBC News. "And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right."
Pope Francis "took somebody on the front of the newspapers for faith-related concerns and met with her," Joe Valenzano, an expert on religious rhetoric at the University of Dayton in Ohio, previously told the Monitor. "[The pope told Davis that] you don’t lose faith because you lose a battle. That’s not the pope weighing in on the culture wars or endorsing Kim Davis’s position. That’s the pope endorsing the idea that religion is important to people."
"Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability," said Father Lombardi. "The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family."
Davis gained national attention this summer for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in one Kentucky county after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the country. She later spent five days in jail for refusing to adhere to federal court orders.