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When Spider-Man met the Pope

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Mattia Villardita, 27, from northern Italy, is dressed as Spider-Man as he greets people during Pope Francis’ general audience in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican 23 June, 2021. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

By Hannah Brockhaus, CNA

People attending Pope Francis’ weekly audience on Wednesday, and those following via livestream, were surprised to see sitting among the crowd a man dressed head-to-toe in tight red and blue garb decorated with a silver web.

Why was Spider-Man at the Vatican?

The man inside the costume is Mattia Villardita, a 28-year-old Italian who dresses up as the comic-book character to visit sick children in hospitals across the country.

“I try to alleviate some of the suffering of hospital patients,” he told CNA.

The part-time ‘Spider-Man’ said he uses his free time to dress up and visit hospitals. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

Mr Villardita was at the June 23 general audience, held inside San Damaso Courtyard, to meet Pope Francis and to give him his very own Spider-Man mask.

“I’m Catholic and I’m very happy about this experience,” Mr Villardita said afterward, noting that Pope Francis already knew who he was and about his ‘mission’. “He told me to take a lot of selfies with the kids in the square,” he said.

Last year, Mr Villardita was made a Cavalier of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, an honor conferred on him by the Italian president for his actions as an “everyday hero.”

The real-life Peter Parker told CNA that he has a day job, but he uses his free time to dress up and visit hospitals.

Mattia Villardita shows off his ‘Spidey’ abilities. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

This article originally appeared at Catholic News Agency.