THURSDAY 31 MAY 2007
Thursday May 31,2007
By David Piditch and
Matt Drake in Praia da Luz
Kate McCann greets
the Pope yesterday
IT should have been their proudest day. Instead it was the
Kate and Gerry McCann met the Pope at the
Vatican yesterday in the latest step of their search for
During the emotional meeting Pope
Benedict XVI took hold of Mrs McCanns hand and offered tender
words of comfort and prayers. He also blessed pictures of
Madeleine and her two-year-old twin brother and sister, Sean and
Gerry squeezed Kates shoulder as she thanked
Pope Benedict. The couple then kissed the sacred ring on the
But it was a butterfly which landed on a
yellow ribbon in Mrs McCanns hair which brought a surreal calm.
It flew off but came back again to settle on her lapel.
Clarence Mitchell, a family spokesman for the McCanns, said: ?It
is a sign that Madeleine was with us. Its a good omen.?
The couple were among more than 35,000 pilgrims who gathered in
St Peters Square for the Popes weekly audience. They were
given front row seats in front of the Basilica after the meeting
was set up by Roman Catholic church officials in Britain.
Afterwards Mrs McCann, a part-time GP, said: ?He told us he
would pray for us and our family and said he would continue to
pray for Madeleines safe return to us.?
the butterfly, she said: ?It was really strange but lovely, it
was like a symbol of hope.?
The couple described their
trip to Rome as ?absolutely fantastic?. They told how they had
been warmly received by the British ambassador of the Holy See
and his staff.
Among them was Monseigneur Charlie Burns,
a Glaswegian who has been in Rome for 50 years and has close
links to the embassy. A source of strength for the couple, he
patted them on the back when the prayers referred to children.
Mr McCann said: ?He gave us rosaries and told us, ?this will
remind you that I am praying for you every day?. That prayer was
very tactful, anyone could take anything they chose from it and
it was very important for us.? Mrs McCann added: ?Charlie was
lovely. Everyone at the embassy almost felt like family by the
time we left.?
The McCanns have relied heavily on their
faith throughout their 28 day ordeal and yesterday described
their ?mixed emotions? after leaving Portugal for the first time
together to jet into Rome.
Mr McCann, a consultant cardiologist, said: ?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 realisation that our daughter is still
missing. It was more personal than I could ever have imagined.
?There was recognition when he looked at the photograph. His
touch, words and thoughts were more tender than I could have
Mr McCann said the goodness generated by ?one evil act? had
restored his faith. ?We know many people both here and elsewhere
are praying for our daughter and that helps us sustain our
belief that we can get her back safely,? he said.
McCann agreed: ?It was very emotional but also a very positive
experience. It?s been very important to us.?
her conversation with the pontiff, Mrs McCann said: ?He was very
kind and sincere. I thanked him first of all for letting us meet
him and I thanked him for his prayers.?
She added: ?It
helped us tremendously. It can only make us stronger and lift us
Holding up a poster of Madeleine written in
Italian, Mr McCann described the agony of not knowing where
their daughter is being held.
?We're still in the middle
of a race and we do not know how long it is going to be,? he
?I do not know how we will have changed but I
think it is fair to say we will never be the same again.?
Pope Benedict approached the couple at the end of his audience
which was held in the open air and began in blazing
but ended in a brief shower.
As the couple were escorted away, a group of pilgrims from
Britain who were sat behind them broke into spontaneous
Trevor Kavanagh, from Merton, South-west
London, said: ?Our hearts really do go out to them. We knew they
were going to be here as we saw it on the news.
be really hard for them but they will draw great strength and
inspiration from their meeting with the Pope and their strong
faith has been obvious from the start and that will also help
Last night Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said of
the encounter: ?It was a gesture of spiritual closeness, of
prayer and of particular attention to this child and the parents
of all missing children.
?It was a very significant act
of support to Madeleines parents, to the search for her and in
the fight against abductions.?
During the 90-minute
audience, the Pope offered a ?special blessing to children
His words proved too much for the McCanns
who wiped back the tears with their heads bowed. They were
dressed in sombre dark suits which had been bought for the
Mrs McCann wore yellow and green ribbons in her
hair ? a symbol of hope in Portugal.
The couple flew in
from the Algarve in a 12-seater Gulfstream jet belonging to
retail tycoon Sir Philip Green.
Last night they flew back
to the holiday resort of Praia da Luz where Madeleine was
snatched on May 3.
They were re-united with the twins who
were considered too young to make the trip and were looked after
by close relatives.