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Madeleine's parents have audience with Pope

Original Source: TELEGRAPH: SATURDAY 2 JUNE 2007
By Richard Edwards in Rome Last Updated: 2:11AM BST 02/06/2007

Holding his hand as they asked him to bless their daughter, Kate and Gerry McCann today told how a "personal and tender" moment with the Pope had given them renewed strength in the search for Madeleine.

Kate McCann, wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair, thanked the Pope for his prayers

One month after the four-year-old was abducted, her parents attended an emotional audience with the Pontiff in St Peter's Square in Rome.

It had been a lifetime highlight to meet the Pope, but one "tinged" by the pain of knowing they were there because Madeleine was missing, they said afterwards.

As a special papal blessing was offered to children and loved ones, both Mr and Mrs McCann wept. But they took solace minutes later from spending a moment alone with the Pope and their prayers.

Afterwards, they insisted it had been a positive experience and provided strength for them spiritually as they continue the hunt for their missing daughter.

Mr McCann said: "There was recognition from him immediately looking at Madeleine's photograph.

"His touch, and thoughts and words were more tender than we could have thought. It was more personal than I could have imagined. That will help sustain us through this difficult time."

Mrs McCann spoke first to the Pope and passed him a photograph of Madeleine and her twin siblings to bless. She said: "I thanked him first of all for letting us meet him and I thanked him for his prayers. That photograph will stay with us now.

"It was very emotional but also a very positive experience. It has only made us stronger and lifted us up more."

Asked what the Pope told her, Mrs McCann said: "He said he continued to pray for Madeleine's safe return to us. He was very kind and sincere."


The trip to Rome marked the beginning of the couple's campaign to raise awareness of Madeleine's plight across Europe. She was snatched on May 3 from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

While the McCanns await developments in the Portuguese police investigation, they saw this meeting and its worldwide significance - as being their biggest opportunity yet to have an influence on bringing Madeleine home.

The couple, both Catholics, had received an invitation from the Vatican and sat in the Prima Fila the front row - twenty yards away from Pope Benedict XVI at Wednesday's regular General Audience. The seats are normally reserved for world leaders and dignitaries.

Mrs McCann clutched two photos, a set of black rosary beads and Madeleine's favourite toy, Cuddle Cat. Along with her husband, she shaded under a blue tartan umbrella from the hot morning sun.

For the first time in a month, they had a period of private reflection as they stood anonymously amongst thousands of people, many of whom were cheering in a carnival style atmosphere as the Pontiff emerged.

In a 90-minute ceremony they remained silent, with heads bowed, trying to hold in their emotions. For one brief moment they smiled as Mr McCann saw two nuns dressed in white looking down on them from the terrace of the papal apartments.

Mrs McCann's gaze lingered as she looked up at them and the heavens.

The McCanns left their twins to travel to Rome


As the ceremony drew to a close, a priest and a cardinal approached them to offer their prayers. Mrs McCann was briefly overcome on both occasions, dabbing at her eyes to dry the tears.

Their immediate grief laid bare, it was quickly transformed when the Pope finished the service and talked to them personally. He recognised the photograph, and held Mrs McCann's hand as they talked, while her husband's hand gently squeezed her shoulder.

As the Pope walked away, the couple paused, capturing the moment in their minds. Mrs McCann had grown visibly in strength and stature.At a press conference afterwards, they held up poster in Italian and answered questions from journalists from Portugal, Sweden, Spain, Germany and Italy. Mr McCann said the worldwide support has been unbelievable. "One evil act of the abduction of Madeleine seems to have generated so much good," he said. "It has restored my faith in humanity."

The father added: "Meeting the Pontiff was an experience that has very mixed emotions for us. In ordinary circumstances of course it would be the highlight of any Catholic to come and meet the Pope.

"Of course it is saddened with the very marked realization that our daughter is still missing. We know many people both here and elsewhere are praying for our daughter and that helps us sustain out belief that we can get her back."

Mr McCann added: "We know that there could be a breakthrough at any time. We must believe and do believe that we can get Madeleine back with us."

The couple, who live in Rothley, near Leicester, flew back to Portugal last night to be reunited with their two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. Seated behind the couple during the audience had been the British Ambassador to the Holy See Francis Campbell and their Foreign Office liaison officer Clarence Mitchell.

Nearby, a group of 15 deacons from the UK offered their support. Richard Edwards, deacon of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church in Brighton, said he knew they were coming today. The 53-year-old said: "You can only have sympathy for them. It is hard to find words to describe what they are going through.

"We hope and pray there will be some good news. It was quite clear from the start that they have taken strength from their faith. "It is an enormous privilege to meet the Pope from a spiritual point of view."


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