WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) — One day before Pope Francis met embattled Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in Washington last week, the pontiff had a private meeting with a longtime friend and his same-sex partner.
Yayo Grassi, and his partner of 19 years, Iwan Bagus, met with Francis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, Grassi said. A video of the meeting shows the pope greeting both men with a hug. Grassi is one of the pope’s former students.
“He met with me and my boyfriend — knowing that I am his friend and that my boyfriend is my boyfriend,” Grassi told CNBC. “We did not talk about gay marriage. I know what he thinks.”
The meeting, with the two men, Grassi’s mother and several friends, happened before the pope met Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Davis, an Apostolic Christian controversially jailed for refusing a court order to issue same-sex marriage licenses.The Vatican has emphasized the meeting with Davis “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” Officials said the meeting with Davis was not a “real audience,” saying she was among a group gathered to see him off as he left Washington for New York. Davis’s lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, maintains the meeting with Davis was private and was called by the Vatican.
In response to the meeting with Grassi, the Vatican said the Argentine native “met other times in the past with the pope” and “asked to present his mother and several friends to the pope during the pope’s stay in Washington, D.C.”
“As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a written statement.
Grassi, 67, met the future pope while he was in high school in the Argentine city of Santa Fe. Francis, then known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, taught Argentine literature and psychology at Inmaculada Concepción in 1964 and 1965. While Grassi and Bergoglio lost touch for some time, they resumed contact when Bergoglio was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Grassi also visited the pope in the Vatican in September 2013.
“Once I saw how busy and exhausting his schedule was in D.C., I wrote back to him saying perhaps it would be better to meet some other time,” Grassi, a Washington, D.C. caterer, told the New York Times. “Then he called me on the phone and he told me that he would love to give me a hug in Washington.”