- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2:38 p.m.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI held the hands of the parents of 4-year-old Madeleine McCann today, blessing them and a photo of the girl as they asked for prayers for their daughter, who disappeared while on a family vacation in Portugal.

The pope spoke with the parents, both dressed in dark suits, as he greeted dignitaries seated in the front row during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“He was very kind, very sincere,” Kate McCann told a news conference. She said Benedict assured them that he would “continue to pray for Madeleine’s safe return.”

“It was more personal than I ever could have imagined,” said Gerry McCann, adding that Benedict immediately recognized Madeleine’s photograph.

“His touch and thoughts and words were more tender than we could have hoped, and that will sustain us during this most difficult time,” he said.

The Vatican readily accepted the British couple’s request to meet with the pope as they pressed their campaign to publicize their daughter’s disappearance. Devout Catholics, they recently prayed at the pilgrimage site in Fatima, Portugal, for her safe return.

Madeleine McCann disappeared May 3 when her parents left her and her 2-year-old twin siblings alone in their hotel room while they went to a restaurant in their hotel complex in Praia da Luz, a resort town in Portugal’s Algarve region. Mr. and Mrs. McCann have said they won’t return to Britain without their daughter.

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