Pope Francis held a private meeting with a gay couple during his recent trip to the United States.

Yayo Grassi and Iwan Bagus have been together more than 19 years.

Grassi told CNN that the visit, held at the Vatican Embassy in D.C. on September 23, was arranged personally with the pope via email.

“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi told the network.

Grassi, who studied under Pope Francis in Argentina, said that the pontiff is aware of his sexuality.

“He has never been judgmental. He has never said anything negative,” he said.

“Obviously, he is the pastor of the church and he has to follow the church's teachings. 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.”

The meeting took place the day before the pope met Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who is fighting to prevent her county office from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, told ABC News that the pope told her to “stay strong” and said that she felt validated “just knowing that the pope is on track with what we're doing.”

But on Friday, the Vatican distanced itself from Davis, saying that the meeting “should not be considered a form of support for her position.”

(Related: Vatican: Pope Francis' meeting with Kim Davis not a form of support.)