Oreste Tornani, a man with a severely disfigured face who was blessed by Pope Francis at a recent General Audience, says he felt very close to the Holy Father at their encounter.
The two met briefly on Nov. 20 following the Pope's address in St.
Peter's Square, as the Roman Pontiff spent several minutes greeting the
sick who were in attendance.
“The Pope speaks very simply, cordially and with a warm voice, and it's nice to hear him,” Tornani told CNA Dec. 9.
“When I met him, he asked me how I was, how things were going, if I had any problems, and where I was living.”
During their encounter, Pope Francis kissed him and gave him a blessing, making a gesture towards heaven.
Tornani explained that he was working as a mechanic in a manufacturing
plant at the age of 30 when he was shot in the face. Although he
survived and underwent numerous surgeries, his face was left completely
Now 60 and unemployed, he receives assistance from the Maria Cristina
Ogier Association, a Catholic center in Florence which helps the poor
Pope Francis' embrace of Tornani was not the first time such an act of his drew widespread attention.
During World Youth Day, the Pope blessed a newborn baby girl suffering
from anencephaly, a condition in which part or all of the brain is not
And on Nov. 6, also following a General Audience, the Holy Father
greeted Vinicio Riva, whose neurofibromatosis has covered his body with
Riva told the Daily Mail later that month that being hugged by the Pope
was “like paradise … he didn't even think about whether or not to hug
me. I'm not contagious, but he didn't know that. But he just did it: he
caressed me all over my face, and as he did I felt only love.”
Such warmth has contributed to Time Magazine's choice of Pope Francis as
2013 “Person of the Year”; the publication said he is changing the
“tone and perception” of the Church.