While on an official trip to the United States, Pope Francis met with the Kentucky clerk who was sent to jail by a judge when she refused to issue same-sex marriage licences. The religious leader apparently spoke to Kim Davis in a 15-minute private meeting to offer support, where he apparently “thanked her for her courage” and told her to “stay strong“.

Mat Stavers, the lawyer representing Davis, explained that the woman and her husband had been invited to see the Pope at the Vatican embassy in Washington after her refusal to do her job caused a huge amount of controversy and made headlines around the world.

Vatican spokesmen didn’t deny that the meeting had taken place and the Pope addressed media in Rome after returning from the US to say that conscientious objection was a human right. He said: “It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.