The disabled man who made international headlines after Pope Francis blessed him is now speaking out for the first time.
The praise for Pope Francis since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church has been consistent over the last several months. Catholics and Protestants alike have showered him with praise for not only his pro-life position but his willingness to show extended love and support for the disabled.
Just days after getting international acclaim for letting a teen with Down Syndrome take a spin in the Popemobile, Pope Francis drew accolades for showing love to a disabled man covered in boils.The Pope wasted no time in kissing and blessing the man.
That man, Vinicio Riva, whose body has been ravaged by neorofibramatosis and growths that began to develop when he was 15, is speaking out for the first time. His sister Morena suffers from lesser form of disease and his mother died from the same condition.
As the London Daily Mail reports:
The severely disabled man, who is shunned in the street, and has induced horror even in his doctors, has for the first time described the encounter, saying that being caressed by Francis was like ‘being in Paradise’.
He told Italian news magazine Panorama he was left speechless when Pope did not hesitate to touch him.
He said: ‘His hands were so soft. And his smile was so clear and open. But the thing that struck me most is that there has not been thinking about whether or not to hug me. I’m not contagious, but he did not know. But he just did it: he caressed me all over my face, and as he did I felt only love.
He recollected the meeting of a fortnight ago: ‘First I kissed his hand while he, with the other hand, caressed my head and wounds. Then he drew me to him in a strong embrace, kissing my face.
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‘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.’
Mr Riva was accompanied to the Vatican’s St Peter’s square by his aunt, Caterina and his younger sister Morena, who also suffers from a lesser form of the disease.
The meeting with Francis marked a new beginning for him he said: ‘Later I turned to my aunt and told her: “Here I leave my pain”‘.