Matteo Villardita has been helping bring joy to children’s hospitals for years. The 28-year-old Italian has now asked Pope Francis to help him do the same with the power of prayer. This is an incredibly sweet story, that shines more light on what this young Spider-Man has been up to, throughout the pandemic, and now. It also goes to show how powerful stories can be, both to children, people wearing Spider-Man masks, and the pope himself.
You can see Matteo Villardita passing Pope Francis a Spider-Man mask in the photo below.
When asked why he gave Pope Francis a Spider-Man mask, he said, “as a sign, to tell him that through these eyes I daily see pain from sick children in hospitals.” He then said that he felt the pope understood and felt his personal mission. This meant a lot to him, which make sense, because he’s been at this for years. Matteo Villardita then went into the audience and took photos with children. The Vatican told the papers that Matteo Villardita is a “really a good super-hero”.
It would be hard to find someone who disagrees. The 28 year old met with over 1,400 children via video calls during the pandemic, when he wasn’t able to visit them as Spider-Man in person. Matteo Villardita was inspired to take on this cause due to his own experience in hospitals. He had to undergo several operations during his own childhood due to a congenital condition.
The pope and Spider-Man had the opportunity to meet and pass on the Marvel mask during the general audience. This is an event where an audience shows up with the pope in the San Damaso Courtyard. The Vatican didn’t necessarily know that Matteo Villardita was coming, would be in a Spider-Man mask, or the message he was carrying with him. This is a normal event. During this time, the pope then delivers a themed speech. After this, there are prayers, a homily, singings, and blessings to the audience. At this event, when the web-slinger stepped up for his one-on-one with the pope, the audience applauded and snapped photos, unaware that he was asking Pope Francis for prayers for the children in hospital.
While Matteo Villardita is incredibly kind and thoughtful, he isn’t the only superhero out there visiting children’s hospitals in costume. Here’s even an organization, called Superhero Collective, that works to organize opportunities for superheroes in costumes, including Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and others, to help children fight their illnesses while keeping their spirits up. We’ve also seen a number of Marvel actors over the years visit children’s hospitals, sometimes in costume but sometimes not. It gains a lot more media attention when more than one of them does it, especially if two of them are named Chris.
As far as feel-good stories go, it’s always powerful as a fan of superheroes to remember how stories affect children, and how something as simple as Spider-Man mask can change a child’s day. Or how the power of that mask can speak to someone as influential as the pope.