Friday, October 2, 2015
Pope held private meeting with same sex couple in US
Daniel Burke CNN October 2, 2015 The day before Pope Francis met anti-gay county clerk Kim Davis in Washington last week, he held a private meeting with a longtime friend from Argentina who has been in a same-sex relationship for 19 years. Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug. 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. The meeting between Grassi and the Pope adds another intriguing twist to the strange aftermath of Francis' first-ever trip to the United States. Since news broke on Tuesday of Francis' meeting with Davis, conservatives have cheered the seemingly implicit endorsement, while liberals have questioned how much the Pope knew about her case. In a statement on Friday, the Vatican said that the meeting with Davis was not intended as a show of support for her cause and said "the only real audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature (embassy) was with one of his former students and his family." "That was me," 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. Greeting Iwan with a handshake, Francis says that he recalls meeting him, according to the brief video. At the end the meeting, the Pope hugs both men and kisses them on the cheek. "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." While not changing church teaching, which considers same-sex relationships sinful, Pope Francis has often emphasized mercy over judgment. In 2013, for example, he famously said, "Who am I to judge" gay priests who seek to do God's will. He also reportedly met with a transgender man from Spain in January of this year. Transgender man: I met with Pope Francis At the same time, the Vatican has refused to recognize France's ambassador to the Holy See, Laurent Stefanini, who is openly gay. And while Grassi describes his relationship to the Pope as very close, they haven't always agreed on same-sex rights. During Argentina's heated debate over same-sex marriage in 2010, 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. Grassi said he believes the Pope was "misled" into meeting with Davis, who served six days in a Kentucky jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis' lawyers had portrayed the papal meeting as an endorsement of her cause. After several days of questions and culture-war sparring, the Vatican said that was not the case. "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," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement issued Friday morning.