Photos of Pope Francis embracing and kissing a severely disfigured man in St Peter's Square have gone viral on social media.

The snaps depict the pontiff laying his hands over the man's head to say a prayer and then kissing him.

The touching images moved hundreds of netizens

"I'm not religious at all or any form but Pope Francis is doing some great things for the poor and less fortunate," tweeted user @RvtchetBranBran

"I freaking love this Pope. He is a phenomenal picture of Christ. Thank you @Pontifex!" wrote user ‏@jeffwetherell

"What a breath of fresh air for the Church: Pope Francis embraces disfigured man in St. Peter's Square," tweeted @billcap.

Francis made the compassionate gesture as he was greeting pilgrims at the conclusion of the general audience at the Vatican.

He reportedly spent several minutes with the unnamed man, who is believed to be affected by neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disease that causes tumours to grow along nerves and is non-contagious.

The Argentinian Pope took the name of Francis from St Francis of Assisi, the revered 13th-century founder of the Franciscan Order famous for his devotion to the poor and the weak.

Upon taking office Francis said the saint's endeavour should work as an example for the whole Catholic Church from the top down.