Vatican City, Rome — His actions have touched many across the world and revitalised the Catholic church.
By Daily Mail
But for Pope Francis, comforting this stricken man last week in St Peter’s Square was another simple act of compassion.
In scenes strikingly similar to his encounter with the disfigured Vinicio Riva two weeks before, the pontiff first spoke with the worshipper and then put his arms around him, blessing him.
The man’s identity is not known, nor are the details of what caused such terrible damage to his face.
However, his delight at spending a few moments in the presence of the leader of the Catholic church can be imagined.
Francis, formerly Jorge Bergoglio, only took office eight months ago but his iconoclastic style has already had a huge impact on the faithful.
He has made personal calls to distraught worshippers, invited the homeless to dine at St Peter’s Square and washed the feet of young offenders.
However, it was a meeting with Riva, who is covered in growths caused by the incurable condition neorofibromatosis, which moved many to tears.
The Pope, once again in St Peter’s Square for his general audience, put his hands on the 53-year-old Italian man, kissed, hugged and prayed with him.
Speaking earlier this week, Riva said the pontiff’s hug was “like paradise”, adding: “He didn’t even think about whether or not to hug me.
“I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know that. But he just did it: he caressed me all over my face, and as he did I felt only love.”
Riva recollected: “He came down from the altar to see the sick people. He embraced me without saying a word. I felt as though my heart was leaving my body.
“He was completely silent but sometimes you can say more when you say nothing.
“First, I kissed his hand while with the other hand he caressed my head and wounds. Then he drew me to him in a strong embrace, kissing my face.
“My head was against his chest and his arms were wrapped around me. It lasted just over a minute, but to me it seemed like an eternity.”
Earlier this year, Francis tweeted to his 3,2million followers: “The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable.”