(Reuters) - Pope Francis secretly met a Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and gave her words of encouragement, her attorney told CBS News.
Mat Staver, attorney and founder of the Liberty Counsel, told CBS News the pope met Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her husband at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, last Thursday, during his visit to the United States.
The Vatican's chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said he would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Staver told CBS his team did not want to disclose the meeting until now to avoid interfering with the pope's broader message during his visit to the United States.
"Because we didn't want the pope's visit to be overshadowed with Kim Davis," Staver told CBS in an interview that aired on Tuesday.
During the meeting, the pope told Davis to "stay strong", Staver said.
The pope, speaking to reporters as he returned home from his 10-day trip to the United States, said on Monday that government officials had a "human right" to refuse to discharge a duty if they felt it violated their conscience.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Alison Williams)