WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The attorney for Kim Davis claims she secretly met with Pope Francis in Washington, D.C., last week.

Davis’ attorney Mat Staver told CBS News that the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk met with the pontiff last Thursday at the Vatican Embassy, the same day the pope gave an address to a joint session of Congress.

Staver said the pope spoke to Davis in English, telling her to pray for him and to stay strong. Staver also claims the pope gave Davis and her husband rosaries that he blessed.

He added that the photos of the two meeting are in possession of the Vatican.

“I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Davis said in a statement through Liberty Counsel, Staver’s organization that is representing her during her legal battles. “I never thought I would meet the Pope. 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.”

She continued, “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.'”

Father Ciro Benedettini of the Holy See Press Office told CBS News that the “Vatican does not confirm nor deny this.” Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi also told CBS News the same thing.

Davis sparked a national furor by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage in June. Davis said such marriages violate her Apostolic Christian faith.

A federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses, but she refused, and opted to spend five days in jail rather than license a gay marriage. The ordeal propelled her to folk hero status among some on the religious right.

Davis was released from jail earlier this month on the condition that she not interfere with her deputies issuing the licenses. But her legal woes persist: On the day she returned to the office, Davis altered the license forms to delete her name and her office, and replaced it with the line “pursuant to federal court order.”

During his flight back to Rome following his historic U.S. visit, Francis was asked about the case of Davis.

Francis said he didn’t know the case in detail, but he upheld conscientious objection as a human right.

“It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right,” Francis said.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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