Spider-Man swings through the Vatican to meet Pope Francis

Mattia Villardita gifted Pope Francis with a custom-made Spider-Man mask

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

Those attending the pope's weekly address were surprised to see someone fully clothed in Marvel's Spider-Man costume. 

The Italian man, identified as Mattia Villardita, often dresses up as comic-book characters to surprise sick children in hospitals across Italy. 

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His initiative, called "Superheroes in the Ward," was launched two years ago. Some of his friends often join him in this effort as well.

Apparently, Pope Francis was quite familiar with Villardita and his philanthropic mission. 

Villardita even gifted Pope Francis with a custom-made Spider-Man mask. Following the address, he was encouraged by the pope to take number of selfies with kids.

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

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

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When asked why Spider-Man, Villardita told the Catholic News Agency (CNA), "It's my favorite character from when I was a kid." 

The 28-year-old was inspired to put smiles on the faces of sick children in hospitals because of his own story. 

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

While he could not make his visits last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Villardita organized video calls for kids to speak with their favorite superheroes. 

He returned to in-person hospital visits last December.