Government officials have the “human right” to refuse their duties, including the issuing of same-sex marriage licences, if they feel it violates their conscience, the Pope says.
The pontiff made the comment to reporters on his flight back to Rome as he reflected on his 10-day trip to Cuba and the US.
Asked specifically about Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue gay marriage licences, Pope Francis said he did not know the details of her case, but he upheld conscience objection as 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.”
Ms Davis was thrust into the spotlight for her refusal to grant marriage licences to any couples – gay or straight – in the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling in June that effectively legalised same-sex marriage.
The 49-year-old has cited her religious beliefs in refusing the requests, sparking a heavy mix of both outrage and support.
Francis said he supported individuals, including those working for the government, who refuse to abide by some laws.