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
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
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
She was snatched on May 3 from the
resort of Praia da Luz.
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
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
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
Mrs McCann's gaze lingered as she looked up at them and the
their twins to travel to
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
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
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
near Leicester, flew back to
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
"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."