Matteo Villardita, 28, attended Pope’s gathering dressed as superhero Spider-Man as he often does to cheer up hospitalised children.

Fortunately there was no cause for alarm – if there was danger nearby, this is what it looks like when the Pope’s version of Spidey-sense is set off.

Mr. Villardita was invited to sit in the V.I.P. section of the San Damaso courtyard, where the general audience with Pope Francis has been taking place during the pandemic. And he was easy to spot as he sat at the end of one of the rows dressed in a full Spider-Man costume next to a priest wearing all black.

The real-life superhero was invited to the audience because of his everyday commitment to bring joy to suffering children.

The pope is not the first to take notice of Mr. Villardita’s mission to children. Last year, the Italian president conferred upon him the Order of Merit of the Republic, in recognition of his altruism and the creative ways he seeks to lessen the suffering of children, many of whom are terminally ill.

Pope Francis and Mr. Villardita spent a few minutes together after the general audience. In his message at the audience, the pope shared his thoughts with the crowd about the importance of leadership and community. And so, it was only fitting that he got to spend time with someone so intent on being the hero that those who are struggling need.

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