Pope Francis embraces disfigured man in St. Peter’s Square

The image worth a thousand words.

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.

Like St. Francis of Assisi, who embraced a leper, Pope Francis kisses a man plagued with a terrible skin condition: http://t.co/b8ydPlIip0 — James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) November 6, 2013

Wow. The image of Pope Francis embracing the man with boils moves me to tears. Wow. Wow. Wow. @Pontifex #ThatsWhatJesusWouldDo — fatima (@d1mps) November 6, 2013

The Catholic faith teaches that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. After seeing these photos, it’s hard to disagree. http://t.co/6obDgddOp — Christopher J. Hale (@chrisjollyhale) November 6, 2013

I’m not Catholic, but wow. This is what Christ was all about @JPFreire:Try not to cry when you see this image of love http://t.co/3dpTzMhIe7— Michael Garner (@MikeGarner9) November 6, 2013

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • JJK33

    The hands. The hands in that last photo are what really get to me.

  • JJK33

    The hands. The hands in that last photo are what really get to me.

  • Alexis1892

    I have long held a grudge against the Catholic Church (and the Christian faith) for the hypocrisy and intolerance so often exhibited by its practitioners. In no time in my life have I liked a Pope or felt that they embodied what Christians and Catholics proclaim is the essence of their faith. That is, until Pope Francis. I’m thrilled to finally see a religious leader so full of love and compassion. Though I am not Catholic, I truly believe that Pope Francis is a wonderful human being and actually deserves the respect he is given.

  • Alexis1892

    I have long held a grudge against the Catholic Church (and the Christian faith) for the hypocrisy and intolerance so often exhibited by its practitioners. In no time in my life have I liked a Pope or felt that they embodied what Christians and Catholics proclaim is the essence of their faith. That is, until Pope Francis. I’m thrilled to finally see a religious leader so full of love and compassion. Though I am not Catholic, I truly believe that Pope Francis is a wonderful human being and actually deserves the respect he is given.

  • PomiA

    I’m from Argentina, and have obviously heard of Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) before. However, this is a country where corruption is literally EVERYWHERE, so I didn’t quite believe He would be different from previous Popes. This man just makes me feel proud and encourages me to try and be a better person. I’m so happy he’s changing so many people’s views on religion ♥

  • PomiA

    I’m from Argentina, and have obviously heard of Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) before. However, this is a country where corruption is literally EVERYWHERE, so I didn’t quite believe He would be different from previous Popes. This man just makes me feel proud and encourages me to try and be a better person. I’m so happy he’s changing so many people’s views on religion ♥

  • Menidia

    I don’t believe the hocus pocus and mythology, but this I can believe in. Reaching out and caring for one’s fellow man. Right on.

  • Menidia

    I don’t believe the hocus pocus and mythology, but this I can believe in. Reaching out and caring for one’s fellow man. Right on.

  • ovat

    The juxtaposition of emotions is perhaps the most powerful element in this repulsive yet touching image. The ailing man suffers daily from the world’s stares and rejection, coupled with the unimaginable pain of his own personal condition. But at this poignant moment, he feels joy and reverence, more so than he ever thought possible but to which all humans regardless of station can lay claim. The Pope is charged daily by the joy and adoring eyes of the throngs that envelop his every move with a cumulative collective crescendo of compassion. The Father holds the Son, and the world becomes silent.

  • ovat

    The juxtaposition of emotions is perhaps the most powerful element in this repulsive yet touching image. The ailing man suffers daily from the world’s stares and rejection, coupled with the unimaginable pain of his own personal condition. But at this poignant moment, he feels joy and reverence, more so than he ever thought possible but to which all humans regardless of station can lay claim. The Pope is charged daily by the joy and adoring eyes of the throngs that envelop his every move with a cumulative collective crescendo of compassion. The Father holds the Son, and the world becomes silent.

  • Dislocated Yankee

    I’m not Catholic; I was raised in a Protestant denomination. However, I’ve been increasingly turned off from organized religion during the past 20-30 years because of the very public, self-righteous, sometimes heartless and even hateful words and actions of U.S. Christians. In profound, heartwarming contrast to that is this image of Pope Francis, which harks back to witnessing the essence of authentically lived Christian faith by example. This is the love that Jesus preached. I hope this image and what it represents will lead me (and others similarly alienated) back to the spiritual transformation by accepting Jesus within us that true Christianity preaches.

  • Dislocated Yankee

    I’m not Catholic; I was raised in a Protestant denomination. However, I’ve been increasingly turned off from organized religion during the past 20-30 years because of the very public, self-righteous, sometimes heartless and even hateful words and actions of U.S. Christians. In profound, heartwarming contrast to that is this image of Pope Francis, which harks back to witnessing the essence of authentically lived Christian faith by example. This is the love that Jesus preached. I hope this image and what it represents will lead me (and others similarly alienated) back to the spiritual transformation by accepting Jesus within us that true Christianity preaches.

  • 1HappyClam

    I am not of the Catholic faith. This Pope is by the people, for the people. Sainthood on the near horizon! God bless and keep him!

  • 1HappyClam

    I am not of the Catholic faith. This Pope is by the people, for the people. Sainthood on the near horizon! God bless and keep him!

  • 1HappyClam

    This image is in no way repulsive to me.

  • 1HappyClam

    This image is in no way repulsive to me.

  • old sarge

    Such a simple and loving act of compassion, whether one agrees with the Catholic Church or not, or for that matter, even believes in God. Causes one to reflect on how they treat those less fortunate than themselves. I know I am giving this some serious thought.

  • old sarge

    Such a simple and loving act of compassion, whether one agrees with the Catholic Church or not, or for that matter, even believes in God. Causes one to reflect on how they treat those less fortunate than themselves. I know I am giving this some serious thought.

  • kolars6

    Amen. I cried.

  • kolars6

    Amen. I cried.

  • writerjohn

    To see the face of God in our fellow man is a true sign of holiness. Pope Francis saw the face of God in this man and responsed with the love than tranforms human nature. What a wonderful man.

  • writerjohn

    To see the face of God in our fellow man is a true sign of holiness. Pope Francis saw the face of God in this man and responsed with the love than tranforms human nature. What a wonderful man.

  • sierra2nevada

    This should be on the Front Page and leading the news. It is a beautiful act of compassion and restores one’s faith.

  • sierra2nevada

    This should be on the Front Page and leading the news. It is a beautiful act of compassion and restores one’s faith.

  • Dlosser5693

    This is awe-inspiring and compassionate and should renew all of Mankind’s faith in Love amidst of everything else that is going on in this whole World!

  • Dlosser5693

    This is awe-inspiring and compassionate and should renew all of Mankind’s faith in Love amidst of everything else that is going on in this whole World!

  • David Hollenshead

    While neurofibromatosis is genetic and thus harmless to others, it’s reasonable to assume that the Pope, not being a doctor, didn’t know this. More importantly he didn’t care if he was embracing a person who was infectious. The Catholic Church is most active in the developing world, where the clergy exposes themselves to diseases like tuberculosis on a daily basis. It’s not how long you live, but how you live that is most important.

  • David Hollenshead

    While neurofibromatosis is genetic and thus harmless to others, it’s reasonable to assume that the Pope, not being a doctor, didn’t know this. More importantly he didn’t care if he was embracing a person who was infectious. The Catholic Church is most active in the developing world, where the clergy exposes themselves to diseases like tuberculosis on a daily basis. It’s not how long you live, but how you live that is most important.

  • msdude

    Yes, beautiful, lovely….. but to get down to brass tacks….. did he get him any real
    “medical” help???

  • msdude

    Yes, beautiful, lovely….. but to get down to brass tacks….. did he get him any real
    “medical” help???

  • sophia37

    I find this Pope to be very moving. He’s on the right path.

  • sophia37

    I find this Pope to be very moving. He’s on the right path.

  • Faceless Commenter

    Or channel a miracle cure?

  • Faceless Commenter

    Or channel a miracle cure?

  • Getthefacts

    Vinicio Riva suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease which causes boils, impaired vision and sometimes cancer.

    The 53-year-old later told an Italian magazine of the encounter: “I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn’t. The emotion was too strong. It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity.

    “But what astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me.

    “I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.”

  • Getthefacts

    Vinicio Riva suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease which causes boils, impaired vision and sometimes cancer.

    The 53-year-old later told an Italian magazine of the encounter: “I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn’t. The emotion was too strong. It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity.

    “But what astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me.

    “I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.”

  • Getthefacts

    Read the story from the man’s point of view

    He told his aunt that after the pope touched him, he “let go of his pain”. Perhaps emotional and psychological pain from having the condition start when he was 15 or from people calling him elephant man.

  • Getthefacts

    Read the story from the man’s point of view

    He told his aunt that after the pope touched him, he “let go of his pain”. Perhaps emotional and psychological pain from having the condition start when he was 15 or from people calling him elephant man.