The British parents of a 4-year-old girl apparently abducted during their Portuguese vacation nearly a month ago met Pope Benedict during his general audience yesterday. He offered prayers for Madeleine McCann’s safe return and gave the case a higher international profile.
I blogged about the disappearance a few days ago, including the fact that the parents, two doctors, left the girl and her two-year-old twin siblings alone in their hotel room while they went out to dinner. British commenters who’ve followed the case filled in some details, including the fact that parents were offered a babysitting service, but refused it.
This doesn’t make them monsters. They are parents who made a terrible and awful mistake they probably wish they could take back, would probably give their own lives to take back.
It also appears the couple have leaned on their Catholic faith to get them through, spending time at Fatima and in numerous prayer services praying for their daughter’s return.
“He was very kind, very sincere,” Kate McCann told a packed news conference after the audience. She said Benedict assured them he would “continue to pray for Madeleine’s safe return.”
“His touch and thoughts and words were more tender than we could have hoped and that will sustain us during this most difficult time,” Gerry McCann said, adding that Benedict immediately recognized Madeleine’s photograph.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said the pope was particularly moved by the girl’s disappearance.
“We are talking about a family drama that has touched world public opinion. It could not but touch the Holy Father, especially since these people are Catholics,” Benedettini said. “The Holy Father is considered the father of all, therefore he was personally touched as a father.”
I hope their daughter comes home safely and that this episode provides suitable warning to other parents so they won’t make the same mistake. And I pray for other parents of missing children whose situations won’t garner near the amount of attention.