(Photo: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)
Pope Francis has made international headlines once again by showing compassion towards a severely disabled man at a mass in St. Peter's Square, Rome, Italy earlier this week.
After addressing the general audience at St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, Nov. 20, Pope Francis blessed and embraced a middle-aged man with a severely disfigured face that had large portions of his facial features missing, including his nose and forehead. Evidently, the man sustained a serious injury at some point in his life, but beyond that assumption, no other information on the unidentified man has been given to the media.
At one point in his interaction with the man, Pope Francis was seen pointing to the sky after he gave the stranger a strong hug and a pat on the back. This is the second viral photo showing Francis' compassion for the suffering to circulate in recent weeks. Another photo showing Francis embracing and kissing a man with painful tumors covering his neck and face also went viral two weeks ago.
The man, Vinicio Riva of the Vicenza region of Northern Italy, told the Italian magazine Panorama in a recent interview that he felt "only love" when being embraced by the pope, who had no way of knowing if Riva's rare skin disorder was infectious or not, yet chose to touch him anyway. "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 most astonished me is that he didn't think twice on embracing me," Riva continued. "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."
Fans of Pope Francis have taken to Twitter to show their admiration for the pope in his most recent move of selfless love. "Very moving picture. Sometimes a picture says a thousand inspirational words," wrote one Twitter user.
"He does it again, in beautiful gesture," tweeted Deacon Greg Kandra.
"Pope Francis continues to captivate the world with his compassion," read another Tweet.
Since Pope Francis took on the role of pontiff earlier this year, Catholics across the world have described a fan movement for the new Catholic leader as "Popemania," with many arguing that the pope gives the Catholic church a fresh image of humility and compassion, as Francis has often eschewed the grander aspects of pope life for modest alternatives, including an inexpensive car and apartment.