Monday 26 September 2016

You're crazy, pope tells family who drove 13,000 miles to see him

Published 28/09/2015 | 00:50

Pope Francis poses with the Zemborain family in Philadelphia Credit: Osservatore Romano (Reuters)
Pope Francis poses with the Zemborain family in Philadelphia Credit: Osservatore Romano (Reuters)
Noel Zemborain and two of her children, Cala, 12, left, and Mia, five, in Francisca, their 1980 Volkswagen van (AP)

Pope Francis has met a family who made a 13,000-mile trip over 194 days from Argentina to Philadelphia in an old Volkswagen van.

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Francis spent time with fellow Argentinians Catire Walker and Noel Zemborain and their four children, talking about their visit and praying.

On their Facebook page where they have been documenting their journey, the family said said Francis called them "crazy" and laughed.

The couple left their jobs in food service and marketing to lead their children on the unforgettable tour of the Americas in Francisca, their 1980 van, using savings and soliciting donations to fund the trip to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Noel Zemborain (39) poses with two of her children, 12-year-old Cala, left, and 5-year-old Mia, in their 1980 Volkswagen van, which the family named Francisca Credit: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte
Noel Zemborain (39) poses with two of her children, 12-year-old Cala, left, and 5-year-old Mia, in their 1980 Volkswagen van, which the family named Francisca Credit: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Along the way they made 12 border crossings and stayed with dozens of host families, did lots of sightseeing and documented the trip online. They schooled children Cala, 12, Dimas, eight, Mia, five and Carmin, three, with the help of a distance learning programme.

The family received a call at 6am on Sunday saying Francis wanted to meet them at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he stayed this weekend.

Pope Francis with, Catire Walker, left, Noel Zemboiran, second from right, and their children, from left, Cala, Dimas, Mia and Carmin during a meeting at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, in Philadelphia Credit: Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP
Pope Francis with, Catire Walker, left, Noel Zemboiran, second from right, and their children, from left, Cala, Dimas, Mia and Carmin during a meeting at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, in Philadelphia Credit: Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP
Pope Francis embraces an Argentine family in Philadelphia Credit: Osservatore Romano (Reuters)

"You are the family who travelled from Buenos Aires?" the family recalled the Pope telling them. He told them he had been following their trip.

Ms Zemborain, 39, said Francis told her that they were crazy to drive so far with their children. She said it was like meeting an old friend and Francis hugged the children.

It took the family 194 days and 12 border crossings before they finally met the pope Credit: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte
It took the family 194 days and 12 border crossings before they finally met the pope Credit: AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

The family plans to continue travelling until November, when they will fly home from Miami. They were going to send the van by ship, but then a relative volunteered to drive it back to Buenos Aires from Florida.

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