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How it felt to be embraced by the pope

Neurofibromatosis sufferer describes his moment with Pope Francis

How it felt to be embraced by the pope


Marine Soreau for
Vatican City

November 21, 2013

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“The Pope was not afraid of me; he embraced me. While he caressed me, I felt only love.”

This is the testimony of Vinicio, the disfigured man who received a very personal blessing from Pope Francis, and whose pictures have traveled around the world.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Panorama, Vinicio, 53, spoke with great emotion about this caress from the Pope that took place in St. Peter’s Square last week.

“I first kissed his hand, while with the other hand he stroked my head and wounds. And then he pulled me against him, squeezing me hard and kissing my face. I had my head against his chest and his arms were wrapped around me. And he held me tight, drawing me close to him, and he didn’t let go. I tried to speak, to say something, but I could not: the emotion was too strong. It lasted a little over a minute, but it seemed like an eternity.”

A native of Isola, a small village in the province of Vicenza (Italy), he lives with his younger sister and their aunt, Caterina Morena, who is their guardian. Like his sister (in a milder form), he has suffered from type 1 nuerofibromitosis since he was 15 years old. It is a rare disease that causes painful growths all over the body. Currently, there is no treatment for it.

“The first signs of the disease showed up after I turned 15. I was told that I would be dead in 30 years. But here I am,” he testifies before returning to that overwhelming encounter.

“The Pope’s hands are so tender. Soft and beautiful. And his smile is clear and open. But what impressed me most is that he did not think twice about whether to kiss me or not. I’m not contagious, but he did not know that. He did it, and voilà: he caressed my face, and as he did, I felt only love.”

Full Story: Vinicio's Story: The Man with the Disfigured Face 


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