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Madeleine's parents invited to Vatican for private meeting with Pope

Original Source: GUARDIAN: TUESDAY 28 MAY 2007
Thair Shaikh Tuesday 29 May 2007
The parents of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann have been invited to the Vatican to meet the Pope tomorrow, a spokesman for the family said.

Kate and Gerry McCann will have a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow morning at the end of a general audience meeting in the Vatican.

The couple will fly to Rome this afternoon from Faro on a 12-seater Gulfstream jet owned by the businessman Sir Philip Green. The meeting will be particularly significant for the couple because they have drawn strength from their Catholic faith since their daughter disappeared on May 3 and have attended church regularly. Last week they visited the Fatima shrine, one of the holiest in the Catholic world.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the McCann family, said both parents were delighted that "this important spiritual support had been afforded to them", and that Mrs McCann would give the Pope a photograph of Madeleine.

He added that although they were grateful of Sir Philip's offer to let them use his private jet, they would only use it on this one occasion.

Yesterday the McCann family visited a 75 sq metre (800 sq ft) inflatable poster of Madeleine that will be taken around the Algarve in an attempt to publicise her plight further. The poster, which highlights a 1.5m reward being offered through the News of the World, was paid for by Chris Lennox and Les Harley, two advertising professionals from Glasgow, who drove it 2,200 miles from Scotland to Praia da Luz.In a statement read out near the poster, the McCanns said they were amazed by the support they has received. "We have thanked everyone on several occasions but, you know, some people are just going to absolutely extraordinary lengths to help us," the statement said.

"We'd like to again thank the thousands, if not millions, of people who are doing little things in their own way - either making donations to the fund, distributing posters, taking posters on holiday - anything that people are doing to raise the awareness of Madeleine's disappearance."

The couple also released two short film clips of their daughter yesterday, taken by a family friend on their mobile phone on April 28. They show Madeleine clambering up the steps to the aircraft at East Midlands airport and later sitting on a shuttle bus at Faro airport. Mr McCann said his daughter had been so excited about the holiday that she had barely complained when she tripped and grazed her shin.

"She was dead excited about going away with the rest of the kids, it was her first time to Portugal," he said.

Meanwhile, Portuguese police said they have received hundreds of calls after they released a description of a man seen near the McCanns's holiday flat at about the time Madeleine is thought to have gone missing. He is described as white, 5ft 10in, medium build with short hair.

Chris Lennox and Les Harley
Chris Lennox and Les Harley


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