Disfigured Man Kissed By Pope: ‘It Felt As If It Were Eternity’

Vinicio Riva said the embrace with Pope Francis made him too overcome with emotion to speak

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Pope Francis caresses a sick person in Saint Peter's Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican City, November 6, 2013.
Claudio Peri / ZumaPress

Pope Francis caresses a sick person in Saint Peter's Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican City, November 6, 2013.

The disfigured man who Pope Francis kissed in a touching moment caught on camera earlier this month said the Pope didn’t hesitate to embrace him when the two met in St. Peter’s Square.

Vinicio Riva, 53, gave an exclusive interview to the Italian magazine Panorama, in which he described kissing the Pope’s hand while he caressed his head and wounds. Pope Francis pulled Riva towards him, hugged him tightly and kissed his face.

“I tried to speak to say something but I was unable to,” Riva, who lives near the Vicenza province, said according to a TIME translation of the interview. “The emotion was too strong. It lasted a little longer than a minute but it felt as if it were eternity.”

Riva revealed that his disfigured skin is a symptom of von Recklinghausen’s disease, also known as neurofibromatosis type 1. The genetic disease affects cell growth of neural tissues that can result in the lesions that mark most of Riva’s body, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Riva’s 68-year-old aunt, Caterina, told Panorama her nephew was placed with the sick at St. Peter’s Square because of his appearance, but that his condition is not serious.

His appearance hasn’t prevented Riva from volunteering three hours with recycling and gardening, eating pizza with friends and watching Vicenza club soccer games. The shy, soft-spoken Italian lives with his 46-year-old sister who suffers from a more mild case of the same illness.

Riva said he often wakes up in the morning with a shirt full of blood, but that his moment with the Pope changed him.

“He touched my face and when he was doing it, I only felt love,” Riva said.

110 comments
Agustin Olmedo
Agustin Olmedo

Francisco is showing the world the solidarity Argentina!

Evee Vann
Evee Vann

At least I can type, or what.

Soniada Leal
Soniada Leal

David A . De sousa bless u I was humble by this pic.

Alvaro Cardoso
Alvaro Cardoso

Wow that's an act of courage no matter how you look at it. Kudos to Pope Francis!

Atul Garg
Atul Garg

Wonderful. Let us pledge to make earth a beautiful place.

Ricky Ric
Ricky Ric

Juςt 0rd¡nary N3wς Buddy . .

Deji Dero
Deji Dero

and your challenge is up to God... I pray you wont pick this up, and you will have to come to church to be healed!

Leslie Cardinell
Leslie Cardinell

Compassion and tenderness show just how much love Pope Francis has for others.

Shernita Yvette
Shernita Yvette

This is the act of a true righteous man, may God keep him

Donald O'Halloran
Donald O'Halloran

He is a depenerate, and unholy dog, be brave common people, not neccessary slaves of the corrupt church.

Donald O'Halloran
Donald O'Halloran

John Paul the second, was a heretic, and God Almighty in recorded testimony gave the evidence, there are no Christain Saints. United Grand lodge of England, holdming the evidence of testimony.

Donald O'Halloran
Donald O'Halloran

The last Pope, is guilty of third degree tracing board murder, and complicity in 9-11. What is the benifiary, of that blackmail fact, and accessory after the fact, heresy, sacrilege, murder, and international, Nazi, high treason..

Roseller Silves Fabros
Roseller Silves Fabros

Media mileage.Publicity.Who knows, this may be a photo shoot? We know the reputation/s of the Vatican and the Catholic church, don't we?

Brenda Bodnar
Brenda Bodnar

... I felt only love. Isn't that what each and every one of us wants to feel? I'm happy for this man that he got to feel the love of the Pope.

Joshua Caleb
Joshua Caleb

As long we call on the 'Jesus' taught by the Church who in reality was punished by God with the beatings of men, these disasters will continue to happen and will be even worse. May the WHOLE WORLD be informed of this very IMPORTANT message: http://www.thenameonline.info/thename/revelations/disasters-en.html To the reader: Whether you accept what you will read in the said article or not is your decision. What is important is you were informed.

Eric Lin
Eric Lin

The pope kisses people. We get it. This is like the 5th? 6th? time this kind of thing has popped up from Time. He'll probably still continue to kiss people and new articles will be done to commemorate such an occasion. Can we move on?

Chantel Venter
Chantel Venter

Some images are just so powerful, they move you to tears. Pope Francis is a good man, a good, good man.

La Kary
La Kary

pero lo tocó y se le fueron las verrugas? sino no vale demasiado...

Nuril Lisa
Nuril Lisa

smga alloh berikan jodoh yg trbaik untuk kita....amin.....

DuBengel Du
DuBengel Du

i respect the pope and that as secular person. wow

Don's Girl
Don's Girl

Donny how nice and wonderful.....

David A. DeSousa
David A. DeSousa

If there is a God, then the man with the cap knows Him. There is no religion in love, compassion, or the good. It is in us all if we dare to express it.

Deneke Mamo
Deneke Mamo

He may some day heal, who knows, and this will be taken as miracle event and it will make the pope one step closure for sent hood¡

Deneke Mamo
Deneke Mamo

It may be important For the next sent hood encounter moment, after this he may be some day miraculously healed, who knows??

Nitin Korepal
Nitin Korepal

one more weapon in the hand os religious fundamtalists. Yes, catholics! Kindly dont get me wrong. I am not a fundamentalist myself, but the propaganda is tiring. Does this person need compasssion of the pope to be loved and equated with all of humanity? The pope did the right thing. But the propaganda machine is spinning it as sympathy. Which is sick and wrong.

Nancy Ostrander
Nancy Ostrander

I love Pope Francis!!! He is "the real deal"!!!! (If it is appropriate to say that about a pope). Makes me feel very humble.

Kevin Paul
Kevin Paul

This kinda people wants them to be applauded by the crowd. They really don't care. They're Hypocrites.

Nitin Korepal
Nitin Korepal

You know why its unbelievable? Bcoz as much as a pope presents it to be publically acceptable, society doesnt accept it. It would be much nicer had somebody as fickle as a pope would appeal to empathy, rather than sympathy.

Nitin Korepal
Nitin Korepal

I am not a christian, and so adequatly incapaciated to answer as a christian would. But tell me, is your compassion in need of a guiding light to affect itslef? I belibe, and I may be wrong, that pope's public display of love and acceptance may be hugely applauded and reverred. Why do we actually need a pope to call upon a emotion as abundant as compassion? Just a question.... If anything I am grateful for a religious leader to have shown a way. But really, where does our moral compass guide us? Do we need a pope to tell us that this person needs to be loved?

Nitin Korepal
Nitin Korepal

you know, I think the person does'nt need to be kissed by pope to be loved and accepted. S/he is as much a part of the world as anybody. It makes me sad that it would take a kiss from pope for all of the world to express an emotion as pathetic as sympathy.

Nitin Korepal
Nitin Korepal

disclaimer: I have not read the article.. Another interpretation of the headline could be.... 'enough!' I hope the popes' apparant acceptance of the suffering of this particular human being becomes a symbol of acceptance. But why do we seek a sign from somebody as fickle as a pope? Does our humanity beg differently abled to be accepted by pope before s/he is accepted by humanity? Its pathetic.

Mukul Hossain
Mukul Hossain

I think the pope is sending the right message.He understands the Divine Strategy.

Ester Santos
Ester Santos

you should be ashamed to show a man wanting protagonism for the church as also to clean its name. What happened to the cleaver articles one used to read in your magazine.?By the sound of it is gone into intellectual crisis .. i liked your page but one article is enough to make my mind up and dislike you atraight way. you're are too disappointing!

jmrm
jmrm

@Donald O'Halloran Lay off the meds bud.

jmrm
jmrm

@Roseller Silves Fabros Pretty sad when all you think about are conspiracy theories.

jmrm
jmrm

@Nitin Korepal How can you even use this as a weapon? The Pope kisses people! Be very afraid! lol