UPDATE: Pope Francis also met with a same-sex couple while he was in Washington last week.
Updated 10/02/15 – 2:27 p.m.
(CBS) — Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich is on his way to Rome tonight. Before he left, he spoke out for the first time on that controversial meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
Cupich in essence told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine not to read too much into it.
A highly placed source inside the Vatican claims the Pope was blindsided.
The Vatican has since tried to distance Pope Francis from Davis. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope’s meeting with Davis was not an endorsement of her decision to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
“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,” he said.
Lombardi said the Vatican wanted to “clarify” what happened “in order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired.”
“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family,” he said.
CBS News has confirmed that former student was Yayo Grassi, an openly gay Argentine, who visited Pope Francis with his longtime partner and some friends.
“Mr. Yayo Grassi, a former Argentine student of Pope Francis, who had already met other times in the past with the Pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington, DC,” a statement from Lombardi to CBS News reads. “As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue.”
The latest revelations from the Vatican put an entirely new spin on the pope’s meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail after refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
As Pope Francis was addressing a joint session of Congress, and thousands more gathered outside on the west lawn, Davis — who’d become the poster child for opponents of same-sex marriage — was getting ready for a meeting with the pontiff at the Vatican embassy.
It is a meeting some charge was orchestrated by the man who lived there, the Pope’s representative here, Carlo Maria Vigano.
Not even Lombardi knew about it ahead of time, nor did the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which would have opposed it.
Others claim the Pope knew about the meeting, and had ordered Vatican diplomats — perhaps even Vigano — to set it up.
CBS 2’s Vatican source doesn’t think so. A close advisor to Pope Francis tweeted that the Pope was, in his words, “exploited” by those who set up what the CBS 2 source says was a “meeting that never should have taken place.”
Some call it an attempt by highly placed church leaders in the U.S. to diminish the impact of the Pope’s visit.
Cupich tried to downplay both the meeting and its significance.
“It is his way of saying that walls of communication need to come down. Meeting with someone is not an endorsement of that person’s position,” Cupich said.
The questions of what did the Pope know and when did he know continue being debated in newspaper headlines, blog posts and on twitter feeds.
Pope Francis presides over what promises to be a contentious three-week meeting of bishops in Rome, with a number of hot-button issues on the table.