Pope Francis Greets Hundreds of Disabled Visitors With Warm Embraces and Smiles

International   Steven Ertelt   Nov 11, 2013   |   7:30PM    The Vatican

Pope Francis has received worldwide praise for his outreach to people who are mentally and physically disabled. The leader of the Catholic Church recently kissed and blessed a man with tumors all over his head and he let a teenager with Down Syndrome take a spin in the Popemobile.

From an AP report about the meeting with more than 600 people with disabilities:

Pope Francis has greeted hundreds of people in wheelchairs one-by-one – part of a special gathering in which rows of seats were removed from a Vatican auditorium to make room for the disabled visitors.

The pontiff, who has made championing the downtrodden a key plank of his papacy, lamented that society tends to “hide physical fragility” and reject the disabled. He encouraged those with physical disabilities to banish any feelings of shame, and become “protagonists” in society as well as the Catholic church.

Some 600 people in wheelchairs waited to have their time with Francis during the event Saturday. He moved down the rows to greet each person, doling out hugs and kisses as well as chatting.

Below are some of the pictures The Blaze gathered from AP.

  • The Associated Press

    Pope Francis greets the faithful at the end of his meeting with volunteers of the UNITALSI (Italian National Transport Union of ill to Lourdes and International Sanctuaries), in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. (Credit: AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

  • The Associated Press

    Pope Francis, right, greets the faithful in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. (Credit: AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

  • The Associated Press

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    Pope Francis, right, greets the faithful and makes his way through the crowd. (Credit: AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

  • The Associated Press

    Pope Francis is seen blessing one of the attendees (Credit: AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)