In a fitting — and unexpected — capstone to their 13,000-mile journey, an Argentine family that drove in a VW bus from their home in Buenos Aires to Philadelphia met and chatted with Pope Francis on Sunday at his request.
The Walker family — four children and their parents, Noël Zemborain and Alfredo “Catire” Walker — got a phone call at 6 a.m. Sunday asking them to go immediately to the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Zemborain recounted on the family’s Facebook page.
“Imagine the uproar that this caused,” she wrote. “We all ran from one place to another in complete chaos.”
When they were finally there and in his presence, Francis looked at them and, laughing, said: “You are the family who traveled from Buenos Aires? You are crazy.”
They all then hugged, the pope gathering in the Walker family’s four children — Cala, 12, Dimas, 8, Mia, 5, and Carmin, 3. Cala “clung to his waist and did not leave him,” Zemborain wrote.
“When they told me you were here, I wanted to meet you,” the pope said, adding that he has kept up with the family’s journey through 13 countries through their blog. “I’ve been following you. How good that they found you!”
The pope then turned to a church official and, in Italian, emphasized the symbolism of the family’s journey for the World Meeting of Families, according to Zemborain, who also speaks Italian.
“This is very important: A young family who has the courage to go out on a kombi and live life with joy!” Pope Francis said, using the Latin American nickname for the vintage Volkswagen buses.
After chatting a bit longer with the Walkers, he thanked them for making the journey to see him.
As he was leaving, he turned back and laughed.
“You are crazy!” he said.
The encounter, wrote Zemborain, was “the best gift for the end of the journey” — one that the family will remember for the rest of their lives.