VATICAN CITY – Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can and apparently that means meeting the pope.
Mattia Villardita dressed in the skin-tight costume — complete with mask — and met Pope Francis Wednesday as the friendly neighborhood superhero in the VIP section of the Vatican’s San Damaso Courtyard, Reuters reported.
But the papal greeting was not a promotion for the upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home” film expected to hit theaters later this year.
Instead, Villardita was given the seat of honor because he dresses up as Spider-Man and visits sick children in hospitals, Reuters reported. He also recruits his friends to dress as various superheroes.
“I try to alleviate some of the suffering of hospital patients,” Villardita told the Catholic News Agency.
Villardita knows what the kids are going through and the visits are partially a homecoming as he spent 19 years as a patient at Gaslini Pediatric Hospital after being born with a genetic malformation and having to undergo multiple surgeries, he told CNA.
Villardita shook the pope’s hand and gave the pontiff a Spider-Man mask.
“I’m Catholic and I’m very happy about this experience,” Villardita told CNA.
The pope wasn’t surprised by the web-slinger’s costumed presence.
“He told me to take a lot of selfies with the kids in the square,” Villardita told CNA.
This isn’t the first time Villardita was honored for his work with sick children. Last year Italian President Sergio Mattarella named the 28-year-old a Cavalier of the Order of Merit of the Italian Repubic for being an “everyday hero,” CNA reported.
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown didn’t stop him from visiting kids, but it did change how he did it. Instead of swinging into the medical facilities in person, he did more than 1,4000 web calls before he resumed his in-person visits in December, CNA reported.
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