Suffering is inevitable in life. Each religion has to deal with this as a fact. The maximal intensity of suffering is death. In the face of suffering man is powerless and he tries to find meaning to it. In Christianity, the attitude towards suffering is quite basic and definitive. It is the suffering of Christ that gives meaning to our sufferings. Christ has come as the Redeemer and the conqueror of
suffering and of death. It is important that we know his name.

His name is Vinicio Riva. Knowing his name keeps us from focusing on his ailment. He is not a disease. He is a person. So, who is Vinicio Riva? Vinicio is a 53 year old man from the Northern Italian town of Vincenza who suffers from a noninfectious genetic disease, neurofibromatosis type 1. It has left him completely covered from head to toe with growths, swellings and itchy sores.

Vinicio’s condition, has resulted in many people pushing him to the fringe of society. He has been told not to sit by people on a bus. He can only do the most menial work.  Vinicio traveled with members of his family and others from North Italy to Rome. They secured tickets to the Papal audience. When the Swiss Guard saw him, they ushered him to the front row. Pope Francis came in, gave his talk, then went down to greet some of the infirm. He saw Vinicio and walked over to him. The Pope then kissed the sores on this poor man’s face.

Vinicio, the outcast, has now become a celebrity. More than that, his value has been affirmed by the Pope himself. And Jesus heals.

Fr. Joseph