Rome: Pope Francis has written to former Formula One driver and Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi, who is in intensive care after suffering severe head injuries in a handbike accident on Friday, telling him his life is a "lesson of humanity".
In a handwritten letter published by the Gazzetta dello Sport, Pope Francis said the 53-year-old, who turned to handbike racing after losing both legs in a 2001 Champ Car crash in Germany, was an example of how to live life to the full.
Zanardi is an inspirational figure in the worlds of motorsport and Paralympic endeavour, a hugely popular and positive competitor who returned from life-changing injuries with a smile.
He has won a total of four Paralympic gold medals, two each at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"Dear Alessandro, your story is an example of how to succeed in starting again after an unexpected stop," said the letter. "Through sport, you have taught us how to live life to the full, making disability a lesson of humanity.
"Thank you for giving strength to those who had lost it. At this painful time, I am close to you, I pray for you and your family."
Zanardi is being treated at the Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena.
"Eventual reductions of the (coma), in order to evaluate his neurological state, will be taken into consideration starting next week," the hospital said.