“He Didn’t Have Any Fear of My Illness. He Embraced Me Without Speaking … I Quivered. I Felt a Great Warmth”

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Source of Photographs:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/26/world/europe/pope-francis-disfigured-man/index.html

In early November 2013, a photograph of Pope Francis hugging a man named Vinicio Riva who suffers from a severe case of the non-infectious genetic disease called neurofibromatosis type 1 went viral. The disease causes growths and swellings and itchy sores all over his body. Because of his disease, Mr. Riva, age 53 in 2013, has suffered prejudice. A few years ago, when he boarded a public bus in Vicenza, a city in northern Italy, a man told him, “Go away! Don’t sit next to me!” In 2013, Mr. Riva said, “I wanted to answer back, but I controlled myself. I felt my blood pressure rise.” He stood while he was on the bus. He added, “There were lots of people on the bus, and they heard it all, but no one said a word.” In early November 2013, Mr. Vinicio travelled to Vatican City. He was in a wheelchair because it is difficult for him to stand for long. His aunt, Caterina Lotto, said, “We didn’t think we would be so close to the Pope, but the Swiss Guard kept ushering us forward until we were in a corner in the front row.” She added, “When he came close to us, I thought he would give me his hand. Instead, he went straight to Vinicio and embraced him tightly. I thought he wouldn’t give him back to me he held him so tightly. We didn’t speak. We said nothing, but he looked at me as if he was digging deep inside, a beautiful look that I would never have expected.” Mr. Vinicio said about Pope Francis, “He didn’t have any fear of my illness. He embraced me without speaking … I quivered. I felt a great warmth.” The encounter lasted just over a minute, but Mr. Vinicio said, “I felt I was returning home ten years younger, as if a load had been lifted.” Ms. Lotto said, “Now that people have seen him [in the viral photograph], they will be less detached.” Mr. Vinicio said, “I feel stronger and happier. I feel I can move ahead because the Lord is protecting me.”

For Further Information: Ben Wedeman, “Meet the disfigured man whose embrace with Pope Francis warmed hearts.” CNN. 27 November 2013

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/26/world/europe/pope-francis-disfigured-man/index.html

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