Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Photographs of the touching embrace were shown across the world and drew comparisons to the 13th Centiry's St Francis of Assisi.
 It was one of a number of public acts of humility carried out by Pope Francis that has inspired an increase in congregation numbers in Catholic churches across the world.
The severely disfigured man whose full-body tumours were lovingly kissed by the Pope has told MailOnline the moving story of his life. Vinicio Riva, from Vicenza in northern Italy, is covered from head-to-toe in painful growths, a symptom of his genetic disease neurofibromatosis, passed down to him by his late mother.

Earlier this month the 53-year-old's picture spread across the world when he was warmly embraced by Pope Francis at one of the pontiff's weekly audiences in St Peter's Square.  The pontiff's hug was 'like paradise', he said, 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.' Mr 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 his arms were wrapped around me. It lasted just over a minute, but to me it seemed like an eternity.'

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