Pope Francis blesses man with severely disfigured face

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2013 / 11:51 am (CNA).- Continuing his efforts to promote a “culture of encounter” with the disabled, Pope Francis again embraced a severely disfigured man after his Nov. 20 weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The Pope spoke with a man who lacks facial features, embraced him and gave him a blessing. Pope Francis then smiled at the man, kissed him and gestured toward the sky in the midst of a crowded square.

The cause of the man’s disfigurement was not known. His identity is also not known, the British newspaper The Daily Mail reports.

It is the second time this month that the Pope’s hospitality towards the disfigured has drawn public attention.

At the end of his Nov. 6 audience, Pope Francis warmly embraced Vincio Riva, an Italian man suffering from severe tumors all over his body. His disorder is known as neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition.

The Pope received Riva for several minutes, took the man’s face in his hands, kissed him and gave him a blessing. Riva later said he “felt only love” by the action, noting that the Pope did not know whether his condition was contagious.

Though previous Popes have also made a habit of greeting the disabled, Pope Francis has drawn unique media attention for his actions.

At World Youth Day in July, Pope Francis welcomed a newborn girl born with anencephaly, who lacks a part of her skull and brain. The Pope blessed the child and her parents during the July 28 Mass on Copacabana beach.

In a June audio message to the Italian Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Pope Francis called for a “culture of encounter, solidarity and hospitality” with the disabled that encourages their “active participation” in society.

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