The Pope 'meets Spider-Man' in the Vatican City

The Pope would have felt the Vatican was in safe hands on Wednesday when the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man swung by after the pontiff's weekly audience.

Those visiting the holy city would have been forgiven for thinking the web-slinger had arrived to save Pope Francis from Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, Kingpin or the Green Goblin.

But the more observant among them would have noticed it wasn't Peter Parker who was paying a visit to St Peter's Square.

The costumed arrival who appeared to be Spider-Man was in fact a real life superhero - a man named Mattia Villardita who visits paediatric hospitals in Italy to entertain child patients.

Mr Villardita, who had removed his mask to reveal his true identity, bowed as he shook the pontiff's hand in the square opposite St Peter's Basilica.

The Pope smiled and spoke enthusiastically to Mr Villardita before they parted ways.

The pontiff had earlier delivered a joint blessing with the Orthodox Coptic Pope Tawadros II to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic meeting of their predecessors.