Skip to main content

Pope Francis' embrace of a severely disfigured man touches world

November 7, 2013 -- Updated 2343 GMT (0743 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • His encounter with man occurs at end of general audience
  • The pope's embrace in St. Peter's Square went viral on social media
  • Tweet: "I'm an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him"

(CNN) -- It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.

Pope Francis, pausing for a moment to pray and lay his hands on a man with a disfiguring disease. The man gently burying his head in the Pope's chest, his many facial tumors visible.

His encounter with the ailing man occurred in Vatican City on Wednesday at the end of the general audience, which had about 50,000 attendees.

Images of the Pope's embrace in St. Peter's Square went viral on social media.

"I'm an atheist, but the more I hear about Pope Francis, the more I like him," Donna Hosie tweeted.

Pope Francis caresses a man suffering from a rare disease on Wednesday, November 6, in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis caresses a man suffering from a rare disease on Wednesday, November 6, in St. Peter's Square.
Pope embraces disfigured man
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Photos: Pope embraces disfigured man Photos: Pope embraces disfigured man
Boy won't leave Pope's side onstage
Pope Francis leads the charge on reform
The Pope and the rabbi

Some say Pope Francis is living up to the ideals of his namesake, Francis of Assisi, a preeminent figure who considered himself a servant to the poor and destitute.

Why the Pope's embrace is so powerful

Since taking over as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, the Pope has highlighted the need to reach out to the poor and afflicted.

"Lord, teach us to step outside ourselves," he tweeted in August. "Teach us to go out into the streets and manifest your love."

A month later, he echoed the same sentiment.

"True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need," he tweeted.

The Pope has called for open interaction with people from all walks of life, especially the poor, weak and vulnerable.

And he is practicing what he preaches.

The man the Pope comforted suffers from neurofibromatosis, according to the Catholic News Agency. The genetic disorder causes pain and thousands of tumors throughout the body. It leads to hearing and vision loss, heart and blood vessel complications, and severe disability from nerve compression by tumors.

The moment marked the latest in a series of memorable encounters for the Pope.

Last month, a pint-sized papal pal joined him on stage -- and refused to let go.

CNN's Hada Messia contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 0239 GMT (1039 HKT)
According to widely cited Italian media reports, Pope Francis recently told a young boy grieving the loss of a pet dog that "paradise is open to all God's creatures."
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
Pope Francis said that modern slavery is a "crime against humanity" and is "unfortunately becoming worse and worse every day."
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Pope Francis is to make his first trip to the United States as the head of the Catholic Church next September.
A Vatican report says the church should welcome and appreciate gays, and offers a solution for divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
Using his strongest language to date, Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise," Pope Francis said.
June 20, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
No topic has been off limits for Pope Francis so far.
June 14, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
Pope Francis prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile because it is a glass "sardine can" that walls him off from people.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 0458 GMT (1258 HKT)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres committed themselves to the quest for peace with Pope Francis.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 1846 GMT (0246 HKT)
As the Holy Land prepares for a papal visit, Ivan Watson speaks to the man preparing to honor the pontiff with his food.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Not a jot of doctrine has changed in the year since Francis became Pope. But there's more than one way to measure his impact.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica -- the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
"The spring evening in which Pope Francis was elected is an apt symbol of the beginning of his papacy and the years that will follow," writes a priest.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
In a gesture towards Valentine's Day, Pope Francis gave his advice on how to have a happy marriage before thousands of couples.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
Take a look at Pope Francis' first year in photos with our gallery.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 2343 GMT (0743 HKT)
It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis kisses and hugs disabled boy lifted up in the crowd.
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
With the new pope himself a trained scientist, could the timing could be right for a new era of cooperation between the Vatican and science?
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Pope Francis is being painted as a humble and simple man, but his past is tinged with controversy.
ADVERTISEMENT