CITY (AP) — While Pope Francis
is usually the center of attention at Vatican gatherings, Spider-Man
, or at least an Italian dressed as the character, drew the most attention from the crowds gathered in rows for the pontiff
's weekly Wednesday audience.
, 28, dresses up as a comic-book and movie super-hero to cheer up hospitalized children
, such as those at the Vatican's pediatric hospital, which he planned to visit later that day.
Villardita said he asked Pope Francis to pray for the children and their families while sweating under his costume in Rome
's heat wave.
According to AP TV, the man gave Francis a spare mask "as a sign, to tell him that through these eyes, I see pain from sick children in hospitals on a daily basis."
As he greeted the pontiff, Villardita reached out with a costumed arm and touched Francis on the back of an arm, who was not wearing a mask in protest
“It was very exciting because Pope Francis immediately understood my mission,” said Villardita.
In a Vatican courtyard, Villardita took selfies with children attending the audience.
The Vatican called Villardita a "really good super-hero," quoting him as saying that during Italy
's long months of pandemic
lockdown, he made over 1,400 videocalls to help ailing children smile because he couldn't visit in person.