US & Canada

Pope Francis met gay couple at Vatican embassy in US

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Media captionPope Francis hugs Yayo Grassi and his boyfriend Iwan

Pope Francis had a private meeting with a gay couple last week in Washington.

A former student of his, Yayo Grassi, told the BBC the Pope agreed to meet him to "give him a hug".

Mr Grassi and his boyfriend Iwan were received at the Vatican Embassy where they discussed his business but did not discuss gay issues.

Earlier this week it emerged that the pontiff met Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licences to gay couples.

That news was greeted with anger by many liberals and gay campaigners in the US.

Mr Grassi said he asked Pope Francis for an audience when he found out he was coming to the US and the pontiff agreed, saying he wanted to give him a hug.

During their meeting, they caught up on each other's lives and Pope Francis asked him about his business, a catering company in Washington.

"Just two friends meeting after a long time," said Mr Grassi. "We didn't talk about gay issues or anything like that."

The Vatican confirmed the meeting took place and added: "The Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue."

Kim Davis meeting

Mr Grassi said he wanted to clear up reports that Pope Francis supported Ms Davis.

"My personal thought is that Pope Francis was not completely briefed on who was this person," said Mr Grassi.

"Obviously, I think that somebody who preaches for integration and who's so into loving each other, and knowing that this lady was somebody for personal reasons did not want to issue marriage licences to gay people, he wouldn't be happy with that, absolutely not."

The Vatican said the exchange between the two should not be seen as an endorsement of her position.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Pope recently returned from a historic trip to the United States

Mr Grassi said he did not think Pope Francis would say outright that he supported gay marriage any time soon.

"He has said who is he to judge other people. He's not homophobic and doesn't have a double face. It's the way he thinks and how he is," said Mr Grassi.

'Greatest teachers'

Pope Francis and Mr Grassi have kept in touch via email over the years since he had the Pope as a psychology and Argentine literature teacher at Inmaculada Concepcion high school in Flores, Argentina in 1964 and 1965.

Mr Grassi said Pope Francis was "one of the greatest teachers I've ever had, and mentor".

One message from him, in an email from before he was selected to be pope, really resonated with Mr Grassi.

"Once he wrote to me, talking about gay marriage, he wrote: 'I can guarantee you one thing, there is no place for homophobia in my work.'"