The day before Pope Francis‘ now-infamous meeting with antigay Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, he held a private audience with his longtime friend and former student from Argentina, Yayo Grassi, who happens to be an atheist who’s been in a same-sex relationship for 19 years.
Grassi declined to CNN to go into detail about the meeting, but said he brought his partner Iwan Bagus and some friends, and that it was arranged weeks in advance via email and phone communication.
“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi said.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who has downplayed the meeting with Davis, said Grassi has met previously with the pope in Rome.
“As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue,” Lombardi added.
“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.”
Yes, obviously he can’t support marriage equality — that would be mayhem, right?
When Francis opposed same-sex marriage rights in Argentina in 2010, suggesting gay marriage is the work of the devil, Grassi wrote to him, “You have been my guide, continuously moving my horizons—you have shaped the most progressive aspects of my worldview. And to hear this from you is so disappointing.”
Francis — then Cardinal Jorge Margio Bergoglio — wrote back, apologizing for having upset his former student and promising that homophobia had no place in the Catholic Church.
Grassi believes the pope was duped into meeting with Davis, which still doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence in the religious leader.
Video of their meeting is below: