One day before he met antigay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, Pope Francis had a private meeting at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. with a gay man and his partner, who the pontiff knew from Argentina, CNN reports.
Yayo Grassi, who has been with his partner, Iwan, for nearly 20 years, told CNN that Pope Francis personally arranged the meeting, and welcomed both men warmly with hugs at the Vatican Embassy in D.C. on September 23.
“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi, a caterer who lives in D.C., told CNN.
Grassi has long maintained a correspondence with Pope Francis, who originally served as Grassi’s high school literature and psychology teacher when he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, according to National Geographic.
After Bergoglio came out against Argentina’s marriage equality efforts in 2010, Grassi struck up an email correspondence with the future pope, expressing his disappointment that his former mentor was taking a stance so personally hurtful to Grassi.
While American LGBT Catholics were disappointed that Pope Francis declined repeated invites to meet with the disenfranchised faithful, the news that the pope did hold an audience with a same-sex couple comes as a surprise, especially in the wake of outrage following Davis’s claims that she had a private audience with the pope, where he affirmed her ongoing religious-based refusal to issue marriage licenses.
The Vatican this morning disputed Davis and her attorney’s claims that she had a private audience with the pope, saying instead that she was among dozens of people who greeted Pope Francis in a receiving line as he departed Washington, D.C.
“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. 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,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi in a statement. “The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature [Vatican embassy] was with one of his former students and his family.”
“That was me,” Grassi told CNN.
Grassi’s partner posted video of the couple’s papal encounter on Facebook; click HERE to watch.
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