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Disfigured man 'felt only love' when embraced by Pope Francis

November 18, 2013

The disfigured man who was embraced by Pope Francis in an iconic photograph said that I felt only love” during the encounter.

Vinicio Riva, whose body is covered with tumors because neurofibromatosis, told an Italian magazine that he tried to speak to the Pontiff, but the powerful emotions of the moment silenced him. "It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity," he said.

The image of Pope Francis hugging Riva and kissing his head-- which is severely misshapen because of the tumors-- quickly spread across the world, forming a powerful image of the Pontiff's care. The fact that the Pope “didn’t think twice about embracing me” was a shock, Riva told Panorama. “I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know that.”


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