- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2013

A photograph of Pope Francis laying tender hands on the head of a man with horrific disfigurations has gone viral — and no wonder: To many, the shot is the epitome of what some regard as true Christianity and the display of grace, humility, compassion and the like.

The man, unnamed but seen with facial disfigurements that remind one of “The Elephant Man” movie, was touched by the pope in St. Peter’s Square shortly after his Vatican address on Wednesday, The New York Post reported.

The pontiff reached out and kissed the man, blessing him and gingerly touching the tumors that cover his face. The man is thought to have a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, and as the pope blessed and prayed over him, he shut his eyes.

Pope Francis has been garnering attention in recent months for his concerted reach-out to the poor, and his call for a Catholic Church revival to help those of least means. Some see him as akin to St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th century church leader known especially for his compassionate advances to the sick and poverty-stricken.

During his Vatican address that day, the pope asked for help for another sick individual — a little girl he had just met. He also tweeted: “We need courage if we are to be faithful to the Gospel,” The Post reported.

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