WASHINGTON — The day before meeting with embattled Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, the Roman Catholic pontiff known as Francis met with a friend and former student who has been in a homosexual relationship for 19 years.
Yayo Grassi told reporters that he brought his partner, Iwan Bagus, and other friends to meet Francis during a private meeting last Wednesday. He told CNN this week that he had personally arranged the meeting with the pontiff, who was his former literature and psychology teacher at Inmaculada Concepción in Argentina.
“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi told the outlet.
He said that Francis has known for some time that he is a homosexual, and met his partner once in Rome.
“He has never been judgmental,” Grassi stated. “He has never said anything negative.”
The pontiff is stated to have hugged and kissed both men during the private meeting.
The Vatican has confirmed that Francis met with the men and their friends.
“Mr. Yayo Grassi, a former Argentine student of Pope Francis, who had already met other times in the past with the Pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington, DC,” spokesperson Thomas Rosica told reporters. “As noted in the past, the pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue.”
The following day, the Roman Catholic pontiff met with embattled Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, but as word grew about the encounter, the Vatican released a statement on Friday providing clarification and remarking that meeting Davis should not necessarily be considered as suggesting official support.
“The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. has continued to provoke comments and discussion,” wrote spokesperson Federico Lombardi, stating that he sought to clarify the meeting out of a desire to “contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired.”
“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,” he explained. “The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”
The “former student” referenced in the statement was Grassi.
While Roman Catholic doctrine opposes same gender sexual behavior, the pontiff has sparked discussion in the past for his conciliatory tone toward homosexuals.
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said in 2013. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this, but that they must be integrated into society.”
“The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers,” Francis continued. “The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”