IT must have been the hardest of goodbyes.
As Kate McCann hugged her twins yesterday before flying to Rome for today's
meeting with the Pope she must have wondered if this new pain of separation was
too much to bear.
But rather than let Sean and Amelie see her anguish she flashed them a bright
smile, listened to their baby chatter and gazed into their eyes.
Without letting them see tears, she kissed them as she stood on the balcony of
their apartment and promised to be back by bedtime tonight.
Then she walked backwards waving as the two-year-olds called out 'Bye-bye.' Her
eyes did not leave them until the last possible moment. At the weekend Kate and
husband Gerry told how they now sleep with the twins between them to keep them
But yesterday, for the first time since four-year-old Madeleine's abduction
almost four weeks ago - they left them with family overnight.
On the two and half hour flight to Rome,
the Catholic couple anxiously held hands as Gerry explained why they had put
themselves through the gut-wrenching pain of this parting.
He said: "Meeting the Pope is so potentially hugely important to what we
are trying to achieve as a family.
"We never for one moment thought we would get such publicity, but it means
we can get our message across."
Gerry said he and Kate were nervous about the meeting.
He added: "It could have such a massive impact on the chances of finding
Madeleine. It takes the campaign to a stratospheric level. This is a huge
privilege and it's absolutely brilliant we are having the opportunity."
Kate knows if there is any hope of bringing Madeleine home safe she must do
whatever is necessary to keep the story of the disappearance in the news
worldwide. And her determination to do that has fuelled the formidable strength
shown by the 38-year-old GP over the past few weeks. The easiest option would
have been to lock the door, stay in bed, weep over old photographs, replay
treasured memories in her head and scream and shout in search of someone to
But Kate hasn't taken the easy option. Instead she has emerged into the media
spotlight each day and let herself be filmed and photographed to keep the
abduction highlighted. She has remained focused and positive and at the same
time kept up a show of loving normality for the twins.
Kate and Gerry, also 38, were told they could take the twins with them to Rome. But they did not
want the youngsters to face even more disruption while having to cope without
their big sister. So they decided to leave them with close relatives in Praia
da Luz for 24 hours.
A British child psychologist is flying to Portugal later this week to speak
to the children and assess how they have coped with their sister's
They have not been able to tell their parents anything about the night
Madeleine vanished from the bed between their cots and are thought to have
slept through the suspected abduction.
Gerry said: "We have decided that for the majority of trips it will not be
practicable, or fair, to take Sean and Amelie. They have an established routine
which we do not want to disrupt and will be looked after by very close
He added: "We have been in Praia da Luz for over four weeks and Sean and
Amelie's development from toddlers to little boy and girl continues. Madeleine
will really notice the difference when she sees them."
The McCanns will join a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Square
Kate will give the Holy Father a photo of Madeleine and ask him to pray for
her. She said: "I think it will really help us."
BHS tycoon Sir Philip Green gave his private jet to the McCanns for their
flight from Portugal to Rome.
In the next few days the couple also plan to visit Madrid,
Berlin and Amsterdam to highlight their campaign. Kate
also wants to go to Marrakech, where a woman tourist reported seeing a girl
matching Madeleine's description.
The Pope greets thousands of pilgrims in Rome
Politicians including Tony and Cherie Blair, Nelson Mandela, and Russia's
Vladimir Putin have all been at the audiences.
The McCanns will be honoured guests in the front row until they are brought
forward to the Pope, who will speak to them in English.