‘It was like being in Paradise. I felt only love’

A follow up to the Pope Francis Embraces Horribly Disfigured Man post we featured earlier this month;

The [] man, whose full-body tumours were lovingly kissed by the Pope, has been revealed as a 53-year-old Italian suffering from a rare genetic disease.

Vinicio Riva’s entire body has been ravaged by the growths, a symptom of neorofibramatosis, which is not contagious.

Vinicio Riva
Close: Vinicio Riva (left), from Vicenza in northern Italy, with his aunt, Caterina Lotto, 68, (centre) and his sister Morena

Earlier this month his picture shot round the world, when he was emotionally embraced by Pope Francis, at one of the pontiff’s weekly audiences in Rome.

Act of kindness: Pope Francis (left) comforted Vinicio Riva, a 52-year-old Italian who had travelled to Rome for a audience in Saint Peter's Square earlier this month
Act of kindness: Pope Francis (left) comforted Vinicio Riva, a 52-year-old Italian who had travelled to Rome for a audience in Saint Peter’s Square earlier this month

The severely disabled man, who is shunned in the street, and has induced horror even in his doctors, has for the first time described the encounter, saying that being caressed by Francis was like ‘being in Paradise’.

He told Italian news magazine Panorama he was left speechless when Pope did not hesitate to touch him.

He said: ‘His hands were so soft. And his smile was so clear and open. But the thing that struck me most is that there has not been thinking about whether or not to hug me. I’m not contagious, but he did not know. But he just did it: he caressed me all over my face, and as he did I felt only love.

He recollected the meeting of a fortnight ago: ‘First I kissed his hand while he, with the other hand, caressed my head and wounds. Then he drew me to him in a strong embrace, kissing my face.

Vinicio Riva crying
Overwhelmed: Mr Riva said that being caressed by Pope Francis made his heart beat so fast he thought he ‘would die’

‘My head was against his chest his arms were wrapped around me. It lasted just over a minute, but to me it seemed like an eternity.’

Mr Riva was accompanied to the Vatican’s St Peter’s square by his aunt, Caterina and his younger sister Morena, who also suffers from a lesser form of the disease.

The meeting with Francis marked a new beginning for him he said: ‘Later I turned to my aunt and told her: “Here I leave my pain”‘.

Mr Riva first needed medical attention at the age of two for the genetic condition, and has since endured numerous operations on his heart, throat and eyes.

But it was the growths, that first appeared at the age of 15, that destroyed his appearance.

Tough life: Vinicio as a young boy before his condition fully developed
Tough life: Vinicio as a young boy before his condition fully developed

Now his entire face and head are covered in growths, Panorama reported. Only his left cheek, warped as if burnt in a fire is free of the painful growths. His feet are deformed and devastated by the sores, which makes walking difficult.

He lives with his sister in the council house they share in a suburb of Vicenza, working part-time as handyman in a retirement home.

Their mother was afflicted by the same condition and eventually died of it. Mr Riva himself was only expected to live until the age of 30.

The severely sick man has been reviled in the street as an ‘Elephant Man’, with mothers crossing the street to avoid him, but those in his community have now come to love him.

He said: ‘Those who I have known for a long time are kind; the others are horrible.’

He is taken to Lourdes, a popular place of pilgrimage in France, every year by Catholic group Unitalsi, but it was the first time they had thought to take him to St Peter’s.

Source: Daily Mail



  1. “God does not look at your faces but He looks at your hearts”
    I have seen hundreds of handsome & beautiful people, but very few had hearts of gold.
    Maybe people should start to understand that the beauty of the soul is much more important than this outer box that we call the body.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Does anyone know where we could send cards or money to help with their needs I want tk do something nice for them please get back to me thanks


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.