Pope Francis concluded Wednesday’s general audience in St Peter’s Square in Rome by kissing a man covered in growths and joining him in prayer.
Photos of the pontiff embracing the severely disfigured man have gone viral online, with commenters praising the pope for his compassion and kindness.
In Italian press, the pope has drawn comparisons to his illustrious namesake, St Francis of Assisi – a revered 13th century holy figure, who according to legend kissed a leper he had encountered on a road after receiving a message from God.
Act of kindness: Pope Francis (left) comforts a man covered in boils in Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican City
Touching moment: The pontiff kissed the worshiper, who suffers from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, which is genetic and not contagious
Images of Pope Francis comforting the ailing worshiper were taken at the end of the general audience Wednesday, when a man covered in neuronal tumors approached the leader of the Catholic Church asking for a blessing.
Famous namesake: The pope has drawn comparisons to St Francis of Assisi – a revered 13th century holy figure, who according to legend kissed a leper
The man reportedly suffers from a rare and painful disease called neurofibromatosis, which causes growths, impaired vision and in some cases cancer, according to the Catholic News Agency.
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Patients suffering from the ailment, which is genetic and not contagious – are often shunned by society because of their appearance.
Pope Francis has been widely praised for his common touch and accessibility.
Since being elected to the Holy See earlier this year, the pontiff has made headlines around the world by washing the feet of juvenile delinquents, personally calling distraught worshipers on the phone and inviting homeless people to dine at St Peter’s Square.
On Wednesday, the leader of the world’s 1.3billion Catholics was greeting pilgrims following his weekly public audience when he took a break to comfort the disfigured believer.
Pope Francis then kissed the man on the face and blessed him. He was photographed with his eyes tightly shut in prayer.
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