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Photo: Pope embraces disfigured man

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Pope embraces disfigured manNot too long ago, he might have been forced to earn a living in a “freak show.” But on Thursday, a man suffering from neurofibromatosis — the same condition that afflicted Joseph Merrick, an Englishman who was billed as The Elephant Man — was welcomed by Pope Francis at the end of a general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis “paused for several minutes to receive the sick man in his arms,” the Catholic News Agency reports. “Moments later, he took the man’s face in his hands, kissed him, and gave him a blessing.”

The photos of the pope’s blessing have gone viral. The man’s name is not yet known.

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