Pope, condemning body shaming, uses personal example from boyhood

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from his window at the Vatican
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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Tuesday condemned body shaming among young people, acknowledging that he was guilty of doing it himself when he was boy in Argentina more than seven decades ago.

Francis made his comments while speaking to university students in Asia via a video link.

A woman from India told him about how when she was a teenager she felt embarrassed and inferior to her classmates because of her weight and body shape and had suffered from bullying.

"Regardless of you being fat, thin, short tall, the important thing is to live in harmony, harmony in your hearts ... every man, every woman has their own beauty and we really have to learn how to recognise it," he said.

In the lead up to his answer to the woman, who also spoke of the pressures of social media, he told her a personal story.

"I recall a friend of mine who was a bit fat and we actually mocked him, I dare say bullied him, we once shoved him and he fell down," Francis said.

"When I got home, my father was informed about this and he took me to this schoolmate's home to apologise," he said.

Francis, 86, said he reconnected with the friend in recent years and discovered that he had become an Evangelical pastor. The man died recently.

Francis also spoke of cosmetic surgery during the conversation with the university students.

"Plastic surgery serves no purpose because its beauty is going to fade eventually," he said, quoting the well-known story of 20th century Italian actress Anna Magnani saying "Please don't retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them".

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Ros Russell)