Touching picture shows Pope Francis kissing severely disfigured man

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
Pope Francis' Compassionate Moment With Sick Man (ABC News)

A photo of Pope Francis kissing a man suffering from a tumorous disease is tugging at heartstrings around the world.

After he greeted the pilgrims at the conclusion of the November 6 general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis paused for a few moments to embrace a man with with painful disease neurofibromatosis, kissing him and giving him a blessing, the Catholic News Agency reported.

In this kind gesture, many saw parallels of Jesus' healing of the leper. Others saw the outreach of St. Francis of Assisi, the saint after whom Pope Francis is named, who kissed a leper he encountered after receiving a message from God.

While the disease is genetic and not contagious, people suffering from neurofibromatosis are often subjects of discrimination.

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Instead of shying away from the man's tumour-covered face, Pope Francis took the man's face in his hands and kissed it.

This isn't the first time Pope Francis has publicly embraced the marginalized. In March, he washed the feet of inmates at a juvenile detention centre.

"This is a symbol, it is a sign — washing your feet means I am at your service," Francis told the youths. "Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service."

"True power is service," Pope Francis tweeted earlier this year. "The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable."