Today Pope Francis was leaving St. Peter's Square when he saw a severely disfigured man.

The pope stopped his car, got out, embraced and kissed the man and then prayed over him.

I wrote a book about this sort of thing. You don't really need to read it. You can look at these pictures. They tell you everything the book was trying to say.
Mark 1.40-41
A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus, filled with compassion, reached out his hand and touched him...
(H/T Andrew Sullivan)

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19 thoughts on “Embrace”

  1. Yes, I agree with the Pope's kindness, but this man does not have boils. He has a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis (NF). This was indicated in the article. What you see are fibromas which occur anywhere on the body or in his bodily organs. It is a disabling disease that affects many people around the world and is not contagious.

  2. This is phenomenal. I am thrilled and excited about Pope Francis. I do think that this sort of thing is accessible to all of us. So part of me wants to see Jesus in a "nameless" person as well. Not just a pope. You don't need to be a pope or a pastor to love the broken or the outcast.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. I had saw the fibromas described as "boils" on the blog where I first saw this and repeated it here. I've edited the post removing that description.

  4. I am not a Roman Catholic Christian... but, even as an Anabaptist, this Pope inspires me towards what it means to incarnate Christ to others... so... why don't more of us reach out to the "lepers" in our society? That part makes me weep...

  5. Regardless is it's boils or NF, how many people would take the time to do what the Pope did? Just the appearance of affliction is enough to bring fear to people and paralyze them from acting like Jesus.

  6. I am not Roman Catholic but I have been impressed with this Pope since day one. It appears he is who he claims he is - a follower of Jesus who need His grace and mercy. All believers have something to learn from the Pope.

  7. As one who has NF, I am grateful that you would include this story in your blog. As a non-catholic, I too am impressed with the Pope's action of compassion. NF is a disfiguring genetic neurological disorder that has a wide range how a person may be affected, though I am not as affected as the pictured man, words cannot express my own emotional response when I saw the picture of the Pope's act of kindness to the gentleman. Thank you Richard for including this story in your blog and all your many many good insights. I think I be buying a new book very soon.

  8. Thanks Richard. I am taking a bit of a beating for them over on Facebook. Nice to have some affirmation. ;)

  9. You're very welcome. It's a small thing, a blog post, but small things--I think--are important. We should lean into people, as much as we can, no matter appearance, or skin color, or clothing, or whatever. Just lean in and embrace. And if this story helps kindle that impulse, that's a good thing.

  10. Jamie, as someone who posted this image on my FB account, I was interested to read your perspective. I am not especially active on FB and, because of the diverse views and beliefs of my FB friends, I try to be careful and selective about what I post. The possibility of objectifying the man being embraced by the Pope was a point of hesitation for me. The potential to highlight and celebrate goodness was my motivation for posting.

    As I've considered this, I understand the valid issues that have been discussed. Yet I believe that there is a deeper underlying narrative than pity or sentimentality that accounts for the resonance of this image; it is the narrative of unconditional embrace and acceptance by someone representing God. I think the picture speaks to a deep yearning in every person to be embraced, in the fullness of their disfigurement, by the loving Father.

    Perhaps for some it is simply a viral feel-good moment, but perhaps for many it is a more visceral representation of the message of universal reconciliation.

  11. Linda, I think my post clearly affirms the actions of the pope, as well as the fact that many posted the images appropriately. I was simply highlighting the oft missed reality of how some might appropriate and objectify the other.

  12. Please read and patronize my blog just starting up. Www.themindoftalk.blogspot.com .
    I would love to hear comments and inspirations, I am making my own little impact in spreading the Gospel.

  13. I very much like a lot of what Pope Francis is doing--he needs to get up to speed on issues related to women, for sure--but this is a great image.

    It isn't the same as touching someone with leprosy. Being disfigured isn't the same as having a deadly, contagious illness with no cure (at the time of Jesus anyway). The healing effect on the disfigured man was, perhaps, and it's a great example, but there was no downside for Francis, no risk.

  14. The Holy Father is following Jesus commandment to love. He is burning with Love for the people of God and the whole world. St Francis taught us that we must preach always and sometimes we must use words. Papa is very Franciscan. Pax et Bonum.

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