One local family was expecting to see the sights on their first visit to Vatican City this summer. What the Larkin family wasn’t expecting was for their twin daughters, Natalia and Bianca, to be blessed and held by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

The 8-year-old twin girls caught the attention of one of the Pope’s security guards with a sign they made that read “I’m proud to have a great leader,” and “Great leadership! I love you!”

“I was frozen,” said Natalia Larkin of when Pope Francis pulled her up to the Popemobile as he traveled among the crowds in St. Peter’s Square on the day of the family’s June visit.

The girls’ mother, Adriana Larkin, said she felt very emotional seeing her daughters be embraced and kissed on the cheek by Pope Francis.

“The emotion of picking your children out of people there — there was between 12,000 to 14,000 people,” Adriana said. “They picked up two girls, and I could not stop crying. I cried and cried.”

The family decided to take a trip to Vatican City following the girls’ First Communion earlier this year.

“We knew that the girls (were) going to do their First Communion and kind of talked about going,” Adriana Larkin said. “The last stop of the trip was the Vatican.”

Joe Larkin, the girls’ father, started speaking in Italian and crying out “Grazia, Papa!” when he saw his daughters blessed. He said their encounter with the Pope was reaffirming to his faith.

“For us as Catholics, it’s very special. It’s something that in my lifetime I never imagined that we would get that close to him,” he said. “We respect him. He is our Holy Father and we do look up to him because he intercedes with Christ’s works, so it was surreal.”

The family plans to return to Vatican City in the future.

Abby Trapp can be reached

at abby.trapp@newspressnow.com

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