Disfigured man embraced by Pope Francis passes away

Vinicio Riva, whose face was disfigured by von Recklinghausen’s disease and who received a long embrace from Pope Francis ten years ago in St. Peter’s Square, passed away at age 58 on Wednesday.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Many will never forget Vinicio Riva, the man whose face was disfigured by a rare disease, who was embraced and caressed by Pope Francis ten years ago in St. Peter’s Square, shortly after the start of his pontificate in 2013. 

Riva’s earthly journey came to an end yesterday, Wednesday, 10 January, after his long battle with von Recklinghausen’s disease.

Historically called von Recklinghausen’s disease, Neurofibromatosis 1 is a genetic disorder characterized by increased risk of developing noncancerous and cancerous tumors, as well as various other physical and neurological manifestations.

At the age of 58, the native of Isola Vicentina in Italy’s northern Veneto region, passed away in Vicenza hospital.