Pope's meeting with Kim Davis not an endorsement - Vatican
The Vatican has defended the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis, a Kentucky official jailed for refusing to issue licences for same sex marriages.
In a statement, it said the exchange should not be seen as an endorsement of her position.
Mrs Davis opposes gay marriage and argued that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing licences.
She said the Pope told her to stay strong during a 15-minute meeting, which she said validated her actions.
But a Vatican spokesman said the details of her situation were not discussed.
The Rev Federico Lombardi said the Pope met "several dozen" people at the Vatican's embassy in Washington just before leaving for New York last week.
"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," Rev Lombardi said.
Mrs Davis, an Apostolic Christian, spent six days in jail in September after defying a federal court order to give marriage licences to gay couples in Rowan, Kentucky.
Her lawyer Mat Staver told CBS News that she and her husband had been invited to meet the Pope following the media storm surrounding her stance.
Pope Francis "thanked her for her courage" and told her to "stay strong", Mr Staver said.
Mrs Davis's supporters said it showed the pontiff backed her cause.
But the Vatican released a rare statement on Friday in an attempt to make clear he intended no such validation.
The Pope was asked for his views on the question of government officials refusing to discharge their duties because of their religious beliefs during his return from the US on Sunday.
He told reporters on his flight back to Rome that conscientious objection was a "human right".
Correspondents say the Catholic Church has taken a slightly more compassionate view of homosexual relationships under Pope Francis's leadership.
Mrs Davis' church belongs to a Protestant movement known as Apostolic Pentecostalism.