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Disfigured man embraced by Pope Francis identified

Vinicio Riva is the man with neurofibromatosis who was embraced by Pope Francis at a public audience at the Vatican on November 9.

By
JC Finley
Pope Francis waves from the papamobile as he arrives for his inauguration mass at the Vatican at St Peter's Square on March 19, 2013. (UPI/Stefano Spaziani)
Pope Francis waves from the papamobile as he arrives for his inauguration mass at the Vatican at St Peter's Square on March 19, 2013. (UPI/Stefano Spaziani) | License Photo

Nov. 27 (UPI)-- Pope Francis' embrace of a disfigured man, covered in boils, made headlines earlier this month and now that man is opening up about his welcoming encounter with the leader of the Catholic Church.

On November 9, Vinicio Riva, whose boils are caused by neurofibromatosis type 1, traveled with his aunt and others from northern Italy to the Vatican to attend a morning public audience with the Holy Father. As the general audience concluded, the pope greeted the pilgrims. What happened next was widely broadcast. Images captured the papal embrace as Pope Francis cradled Riva's face, kissed him, and blessed him.

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In an interview with CNN, Riva and his Aunt Caterina Lotto opened up about his papal encounter. Lotto recalled "When he came close to us ... I thought he would give me his hand. Instead he went straight to Vinicio and embraced him tightly. I thought he wouldn't give him back to me he held him so tightly." Riva was also surprised by the pope's embrace, acknowledging "He didn't have any fear of my illness... He embraced me without speaking ... I quivered. I felt a great warmth." Riva expressed hope that he is able to speak with the pope in a face-to-face meeting. When asked what he would discuss with the Holy Father, Riva demurred, saying "That's a bit private ... It's between him and I."

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[Catholic News Agency] [CNN]

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