The Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples met with Pope Francis last Thursday during his U.S. visit, a meeting kept secret from the media, her lawyer says.

Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk of court, and her husband, Joe Davis, met the pope at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, lawyer Mat Staver told USA TODAY in a telephone call. Davis made national news after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because, she said, it conflicted with her Christian beliefs. She spent five nights in jail and was allowed to return to work as long as she did not interfere with the issuance of licenses.

The Vatican has not confirmed that the meeting between Davis and Pope Francis took place.

The Vatican reached out to Davis through other parties who then put the Vatican in touch with Staver, the lawyer said.

Staver said he was there when a car picked up the Davises to take them to the embassy. The couple was at the embassy for two hours but the actual visit with the pope lasted 15 minutes, Staver said.

“He held out his hands and he asked Kim to pray,” Staver said. “He thanked her for her courage. He said these words, ‘Stay strong,’ and they embraced and hugged.”

The pope spoke in English during the meeting, Staver said.

The pontiff also gave Davis two rosaries that he personally blessed, according to Staver. “Kim’s mother and father are both lifelong Catholics so Kim will present those rosaries to them,” he said.

Afterward, Davis was “overwhelmed,” Staver said.

“She was amazed that she was able to meet with Pope Francis,” the lawyer said. “She never imagined in her life that she would meet with the pope and that itself was just an experience that she will never forget.”

Davis described the pope as someone with a very “kind and gentle” demeanor, Staver said.

The meeting “sends a worldwide message that the pope stands on the side of religious freedom,” Staver said.

On Monday, Staver’s firm, Liberty Counsel, admitted that a photo it circulated that it said was of a prayer rally in Peru in support of Davis was actually a photo of an unrelated event.