VATICAN CITY — Vincenzo Riva, a man with neurofibromatosis, whose photograph with Pope Francis was seen around the world a decade ago, died in Vicenza, Italy, Jan. 10 at the age of 58.
Riva, whose face was disfigured by the disease, was embraced by Pope Francis after his weekly general audience Nov. 6, 2013.
Luca Zaia, president of Italy’s Veneto region, said in a statement Jan. 11 that the photos were a reminder to everyone that “in the face of all the barriers that might create isolation in illness, inclusion and socialization are a universal right for the sick and a duty for all of society. For this we are grateful to him and will remember him.”
In a world that too often emphasizes “the pursuit of the outward perfection of the body,” he said, Riva — affectionately known by his nickname Vinicio — showed the “great dignity and value of life, even in suffering.”
He was “a role model who traced a path of care and respect,” Zaia said.