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Pilgrims – and llamas – meet Francis in Rome

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"Llama-geddon" at the Vatican!

After a 49-day pilgrimage, three men and their trusty llamas made it to Rome this week, where they had the chance to come face-to-face with Pope Francis at Wednesday’s general audience.

Walter Mair and two of his friends traveled 650 miles on foot with three of Mair’s llamas from the Kaserhof alpaca and llama farm in Italy’s German-speaking South Tyrol province, close to the border with Austria. The llamas, named Buffon, Shaqiri (for two famous soccer players) and Tiento, made quite a stir at the audience. The Holy Father greeted the pilgrims (and the llamas) before he gave his address on baptism.

Naturally, the pilgrims gave Peter’s Successor a gift: Socks made of llama wool.

The pilgrims and their animals followed the Via Romea Germanica, a medieval pilgrimage route that starts in Germany and winds through Austria and Italy to Rome.

The 180 animals of the Kaserhof make it the largest llama and alpaca farm in Italy. Llamas are of course typical in the pope’s native Argentina.

“I had been thinking of a pilgrimage for about 15 years and then Pope Francis, an Argentine, was elected,” Mair said, according to the Telegraph. The election of the pope was the catalyst that finally made Mair and his friends undertake the pilgrim journey.

“We were greeted with hospitality and a welcoming spirit,” Mair said. “We were invited to stay at a number of monasteries on the route and also on private farms. The llamas need to graze and rest.”

The journey was documented on Facebook.

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