That hug from the pope “felt like paradise”

Originally posted on CNS Blog:

Pope Francis' General Audience

Pope Francis hugs Vinicio Riva in St. Peter’s Square at the end of his general audience, November 6, 2013. CNS photo/ Claudio Peri, EPA)

VATICAN CITY — When an Italian photographer published images of Pope Francis embracing a man disfigured by neurofibromatosis, no one knew his name or where he was from.

Two Italian news outlets have found the man and interviewed him about that morning  Nov. 6 in St. Peter’s Square. He said the pope’s embrace felt like being in heaven.

“My heart was bursting,” he told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. When the pope hugged him tight, “I felt like I was in paradise.”

Vinicio Riva, 53, lives in a small village near Vicenza in northern Italy with his younger sister Morena, who has the same genetic disorder, and their Aunt Caterina, who cares for them.

Vinicio told the Italian magazine Panorama that the thing that…

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