Express 27 May 2007 [Now removed from internet]
By David Pilditch and Matt Drake in Praia da
parents of missing Madeleine McCann are
to meet the Pope, it was revealed last
Gerry and Kate McCann, both Roman
Catholics, could be granted an audience
with Benedict XVI as early as Wednesday.
They are also to meet former England
captain David Beckham in Madrid as part
of their trip to Europe to raise
awareness of their campaign to find
The couple have been attending mass
every day, praying for the safe return
of four-year-old Madeleine.
The meeting with the Pope was set up
after talks between the Vatican and
senior officials of the Roman Catholic
church in Britain.
News of the move came as the key witness
in the abduction has told how she is
tormented by guilt after failing to save
the youngster from the kidnapper.
The witness, a close friend of the Gerry
and Kate, is a woman who was among eight
couples the McCanns had gone on holiday
with in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
She saw a man rushing off with Madeleine
under his arm, just yards away from the
apartment where the family were staying.
But she did not realise the significance
of what she had seen.
It was only when distraught Kate, 38,
raised the alarm half an hour later that
it became clear the woman was the last
person to see Madeleine alive.
She had briefly left the table as the
McCanns and their party ate at a tapas
restaurant in the Ocean Club complex,
just 40 yards from their apartment.
The witness told police: “I definitely
saw the abduction. I can’t live with
myself. I am tormented by guilt and will
have to live with that for the rest of
The McCanns plan to travel to Rome on
Tuesday night. They have been offered
the use of two private jets by wealthy
A family source said: “Kate does not
want to be away from the twins for any
length of time and she does not want to
leave Portugal. She is determined to
stay here as a base until Madeleine is
The Pope is said to have agreed to a
meeting after being deeply moved by the
couple’s plight. They will have a
private meeting and it is expected that
the Pope will make a public address,
saying prayers for Madeleine.
Yesterday morning, the couple looked
tired and drawn as they held hands and
strolled away from a mass at Praia da
Luz’s Catholic church. 90-minute
They had already visited Portugal’s
holiest shrine at Fatima, to pray for
A source in Portugal said last night:
“The McCanns have found their faith a
great source of comfort. They are
pleased that the Pope has agreed to
provide further spiritual guidance.
“They will be introduced to the Holy
Father, who has been kept informed of
the progress of their campaign to find
“It’s highly unusual to be granted an
audience of this nature. It also serves
another purpose, of keeping the campaign
in the consciousness of Europeans.”
Foreign Office liaison officer Clarence
Mitchell is helping to plan the trip. He
said: “I can confirm that approaches
have been made to Cardinal Cormac
Murphy-O’Connor and to the British
ambassador to the Holy See.
“We are certainly exploring the
possibility of Gerry and Kate McCann
visiting Rome to meet the Pope in the
The couple also plan to visit Madrid,
Seville, Berlin and Amsterdam to keep
their campaign in the public eye. They
hope to meet Beckham in the Spanish
capital and thank him for backing their
campaign after he made a video appeal.
Police last night were investigating
another possible sighting of the suspect
on the night Madeleine was snatched –
this time a man with a woman and child.
Local Jose Francisco, 72, said: “A
couple with a girl in a car went the
wrong way down a one-way street. He was
making many dangerous manoeuvres.