Photos of the pontiff embracing the severely disfigured man have gone viral online, with commenters praising the pope for his compassion and kindness.
In Italian press, the pope has drawn comparisons to his illustrious namesake, St Francis of Assisi – a revered 13th century holy figure, who according to legend kissed a leper he had encountered on a road after receiving a message from God.
Patients suffering from the ailment, which is genetic and not contagious – are often shunned by society because of their appearance.
On Wednesday, the leader of the world’s 1.3billion Catholics was greeting pilgrims following his weekly public audience when he took a break to comfort the disfigured believer.
Pope Francis then kissed the man on the face and blessed him. He was photographed with his eyes tightly shut in prayer.
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