‘I felt only love’: Disfigured man embraced by Pope Francis speaks out about the experience
53-year-old Vinicio Riva, who suffers from rare genetic disorder, says moment was like 'being in Paradise'
The disfigured man whose meeting with Pope Francis made headlines all over the world has finally spoken out about the experience – and said the moment left him speechless.
Vinicio Riva, 53, suffers from neurofibromatosis Type 1, a rare genetic disorder which results in painful tumours on his face and body.
Speaking for the first time to the Italian magazine Panorama, Mr Riva said the moment captured by photographers in St Peter’s Square on 6 November “all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity”, and that it was “like being in Paradise”.
Mr Riva told the magazine he had spent a lifetime living on the margins of society in Vicenza, northern Italy, where his younger sisters and late mother also suffered from the same rare disease.
In the past he has made a number of visits to Lourdes, a Catholic shrine in France which is the site of thousands of religious pilgrimages every year, until a travelling companion this year suggested he go to Rome.
Mr Riva spoke of his shock when, after meeting Pope Francis and kissing his hand, the Pontiff then pulled the 53-year-old towards him.
“What most astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me,” Mr Riva said. “I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.
“I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn't: The emotion was too strong.”
Afterwards, Mr Riva turned to his aunt who accompanied him to the Vatican and said: “Here I leave my pain.”
The interview with Panorama comes as Pope Francis’ popularity has never been higher. A YouGov poll released yesterday suggested that, since the Argentinian had taken on the highest office in the Catholic Church in March this year, he has made a sustained and positive public impression.
The survey found that only 3 per cent of people thought he had done a bad job since being made Pope, compared to the 11 per cent who though he would do a bad job when he was installed.
While 36 per cent of people said they had a negative opinion of the church before Pope Francis and still do, 17 per cent said he had made them think more positively about Catholocism.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Hurricane Gonzalo: When will it hit the UK and how strong will it be?
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...