Sunday, December 1, 2013

Veni, vidi, Vinicio

He came, he saw, he was embraced by the pope. Vinicio Riva traveled with his aunt Caterina Lotta from Vicenza, Italy, to Vatican City to be 2 among the 50,000 members of the general audience in St. Peter's Square on November 6th. Afterward, Pope Francis greeted the pilgrims and spent a minute with Riva, taking his face in his hands, kissing him, and giving him a blessing. Photographs of the gesture (EXAMPLE ABOVE) made international news as further evidence of the Pope's warmth and affection towards the marginalized, including imprisoned youth and homeless people. Riva's disfigurement (MORE PHOTOS HERE) is caused by the genetic (and noncontagious) disease neurofibromatosis. "He didn't have any fear of my illness. He embraced me without speaking....I felt a great warmth," recalls the 53-year-old. "I felt I was returning home ten years younger, as if a load had been lifted."

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