Addressing reports that Pope Francis met privately with controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis during his U.S. visit, the Vatican acknowledges that the meeting took place. Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, says she met the pope at the Vatican Embassy in Washington.
"I cannot not deny the meeting took place but I have no comments to add," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in Italian Wednesday.
Previously, the Vatican said it would neither confirm nor deny the meeting happened; we've updated this post with the more direct response.
"I never thought I would meet the Pope," Davis said via her legal team. "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."
The meeting is said to have occurred last Thursday, the same day Francis addressed Congress. Davis was in Washington for another purpose: She received a Cost of Discipleship award at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit on Friday night.
Update at 7:45 a.m. ET: Meeting 'Kind Of Validates Everything,' Davis Says
"Just knowing the pope is on track with what we're doing, and agreeing, you know, kind of validates everything," Davis tells ABC News Wednesday morning, speaking about her meeting with Pope Francis and the stand she has taken against same-sex marriage.
She adds, "I've weighed the cost, and I'm prepared to do whatever it takes."
Davis says it was "very humbling" to meet Francis. Describing the session, she says, "I put my hand out, and he grabbed it, and I hugged him, and he hugged me."
The Vatican reached out to Davis several weeks ago to arrange the meeting, ABC reports.
Our original post continues:
From Rome, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports:
"News of the 15-minute-long meeting was first reported by the conservative magazine Inside the Vatican. Kim Davis told the editor Pope Francis thanked her for her courage, hugged her and told her, 'Stay strong.'
"Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi did not deny the meeting took place but would not comment further.
"Throughout his visit to the United States, Francis carefully skirted hot-button issues polarizing American society.
"On his flight back to Rome, the pope was asked during a press conference if he would support government officials who say they cannot in good conscience discharge their duties — for example, issuing same sex marriage licenses.
"Without referring to Kim Davis, the pope said conscientious objection is a right that is part of every human right."
Davis, whose religious identity as an Apostolic Christian falls under the Pentecostal denomination, met Pope Francis along with her husband, according to a statement from Liberty Counsel, the group that has been representing Davis in her legal battles in Rowan County, Ky.
The pope gave two rosaries to the Davises, according to Liberty Counsel, which adds that they plan to give them to Kim Davis' parents, who are Catholic.