Spider-Man crosses the Vatican to meet Pope Francis

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Spider-Man takes Italy! Peter Parker and Pope Francis met at the Vatican on Wednesday.

Those who attended the Pope’s weekly address were surprised to see someone fully dressed in Marvel’s Spider-Man costume.

The Italian, identified as Mattia Villardita, often disguises himself as comic book characters to surprise sick children in hospitals across Italy.

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His initiative, titled “Superheroes in the Ward”, was launched two years ago. Some of his friends are also joining him in this effort.

Apparently Pope Francis was well acquainted with Villardita and his philanthropic mission.

Villardita even gifted Pope Francis with a bespoke Spider-Man mask. After the speech, he was encouraged by the Pope to take a number of selfies with children.

Pope Francis meets Spider-Man, who hands him his mask, after his weekly general audience with a limited number of worshipers in the San Damaso courtyard in the Vatican, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The masked man works with the sick children in hospitals.  (AP Photo / Andrew Medichini)
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Pope Francis meets Spider-Man, who hands him his mask, after his weekly general audience with a limited number of worshipers in the San Damaso courtyard in the Vatican, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The masked man works with the sick children in hospitals. (AP Photo / Andrew Medichini)

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When asked why Spider-Man, Villardita told the Catholic News Agency (CNA), “He’s my favorite character when I was a kid.”

The 28-year-old was inspired to bring a smile to sick children in hospitals because of his own story.

Born with a birth defect, Villardita spent the first 19 years of his life as a regular patient at the Gaslini Pediatric Hospital in Genoa, recovering from numerous surgeries.

While he was unable to make his visits last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Villardita organized video calls for children to talk with their favorite superheroes.

He returned to in-person hospital visits last December.

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