Pope Francis’s embrace of a man with severe facial disfigurement was the image worth a thousand words Wednesday, with the scene from St. Peter’s Square soaring through social media. In the pope’s prayer over the man, many saw echoes of Jesus’s healing of the leper, and the outreach of St. Francis of Assisi, after whom Pope Francis is named.
Catholic News Agency has more details of their embrace:
The man was identified as suffering from neurofibromatosis, which causes great pain and can result in paralysis, impaired vision, deafness, mental retardation, migraines and even cancer. Treatment of the condition is very complicated.
People with this disease – which is genetic and not contagious – often face discrimination because of their appearance.
As he carried out his typical greeting of pilgrims at the conclusion of the general audience, Pope Francis paused for several minutes to receive the sick man in his arms.