No sooner had the Vatican issued an official statement confirming Pope Francis’ meeting with Kim Davis during the DC leg of his US visit, than reports emerged of another meeting with the Holy Father—this time with a former student of his from Argentina and the man’s gay partner and other friends and family.
CNN’s Dan Burke reports that the meeting between Pope Francis and Yayo Grassi took place September 23, the day before the Holy Father met with Kim Davis. A video of the meeting can be viewed here. Grassi told CNN that his partner of 19 years was also present at the meeting with the Pope, as were several other friends.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ confirmed in an email to journalists that Grassi met with Francis, saying that the Pope’s former student “asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington, DC.”
The Holy Father “has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome, and dialogue,” Lombardi said.
From Burke’s report:
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Grassi declined to disclose details about the short visit, but said it was arranged personally by the Pope via email in the weeks ahead of Francis’ highly anticipated visit to the United States.
“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi said. …
Grassi said that Pope Francis taught him in literature and psychology classes at Inmaculada Concepcion high school in Sante Fe, Argentina, from 1964-1965.
Grassi said the Pope has long known that he is gay, but has never condemned his sexuality or his same-sex relationship. Grassi said he and Iwan (he declined to disclose his last name due to privacy concerns) had previously met Francis in Rome.
“He has never been judgmental,” Grassi said. “He has never said anything negative.”
“Obviously he is the pastor of the church and he has to follow the church’s teachings,” Grassi added. “But as a human being he understands all kinds of situations, and he is open to all kinds of people, including those with different sexual characteristics.”
During Argentina’s heated debate over same-sex marriage in 2010, though, Grassi chastised the Pope for opposing gay rights. At one point, the future pontiff suggested that same-sex marriage is the work of the devil.
“You have been my guide, continuously moving my horizons—you have shaped the most progressive aspects of my worldview,” Grassi wrote to future Pope in an email, according to National Geographic magazine. “And to hear this from you is so disappointing.”
Grassi told CNN that Francis — then Cardinal Jorge Margio Bergoglio — wrote back, saying that he was sorry to have upset his former student and promising that “homophobia” had no place in the Catholic Church.
In his statement released this morning regarding the Kim Davis meeting, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that while Davis was one of “several dozen persons” who met with Pope Francis at the papal nuncio’s residence in DC, “the only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.” Grassi told Burke that he is that former student.
It is still unclear who organized the meeting between Kim Davis and the Holy Father, and no photos or video of the meeting have been released.
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