The Holy See press officer explained on Sunday that that morning Pope Francis had met with the Walkers, a family from Argentina who travelled in a VW camper van to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.
Father Federico Lombardi explained that the Walkers left from Buenos Aires, and covered 11,000 miles and passed through 13 countries during their 194-day trip.
The encounter took place after the Pope met with sexual abuse victims, and before his meeting with the bishops attending the World Meeting of Families.
Pope Francis wanted to meet the family because their story profoundly touched him, and he found it an interesting moment.
The parents of the Walker family are Catire and Noelle, and the children are Carlos, Mia, Dimas, and Carmen. They posted on their Facebook page Sept. 27 that “at six in the morning we received a call that the pope wanted to meet us, and that we should immediately go to Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.”
When they were finally face to face with the Pope, he said, “Are you the family who travelled from Buenos Aires? You’re crazy,” and he laughed. He then gave everyone a hug and they briefly talked in a family type atmosphere, “as if they were friends forever.”
The family told the Roman Pontiff that “they really wanted to greet him” and Pope replied that “when I found out that you were here I said I wanted to meet you, I was following (your travels). It’s great we got to meet each other!”
Then the Pope approached one of the members of the papal staff and told him in Italian, “This is really important: a young family who had the courage to take off in a camper van and live life with joy comes out to meet other families.”
The Walkers commented to the Holy Father that “there are thousands of families that love him a lot and pray for him.” He replied, “I need it, this is really hard; (in my position) it’s possible to do a lot of good and a lot of bad, pray for me.”
They also told him that one of their daughters brought a rosary and asked the Pope to bless it. They added that despite the short time allotted for this meeting, the pontiff kept on talking with them.
As they said goodbye to each other, Pope Francis thanked them for this moment, to which the Walkers responded, “thanks for inspiring us to come out and shake things up a bit.”
Then the Holy Father turned around and while the family was walking away he said jokingly, “they’ve lost their minds!”
According to the Facebook post, this meeting “was the best gift of our lives and for the end of our trip.”