Vinicio Riva speaks

He’s the disfigured man the Pope embraced.

The severely disabled man, who is shunned in the street, and has induced horror even in his doctors, has for the first time described the encounter, saying that being caressed by Francis was like ‘being in Paradise’.

He told Italian news magazine Panorama he was left speechless when Pope did not hesitate to touch him.

He said: ‘His hands were so soft. And his smile was so clear and open. But the thing that struck me most is that there has not been thinking about whether or not to hug me. I’m not contagious, but he did not know. But he just did it: he caressed me all over my face, and as he did I felt only love.

He recollected the meeting of a fortnight ago: ‘First I kissed his hand while he, with the other hand, caressed my head and wounds. Then he drew me to him in a strong embrace, kissing my face.

‘My head was against his chest his arms were wrapped around me. It lasted just over a minute, but to me it seemed like an eternity.’

I love this guy so much!

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  • James H, London

    Afterwards he said, ‘Here I leave my pain.’

    Not easy to type with tears in eyes. One brief gesture, and the world just stops.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    A truly beautiful moment. I am so grateful to Holy Father Francis for showing such tenderness and affection to this disfigured man, echoing in doing so the renowned embrace of the “Other” Holy Father Francis of the poor man disfigured with leprosy.

    This is what Christianity is really all about – seeing Christ and loving Christ in those around us, even when He appears in the distressing disguise of the poor*, or the disfigured. Bravo, Papa Francis!
    * this phrase is borrowed from the words of the Blessed Mother Teresa.

  • J P

    Holy Father Francis, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, knows that above all he has been entrusted with the love of the living God expressly to share with others. That he is generous with God’s love should surprise no one. It begs imitation. Be generous, too!