BY MARK GREAVES
THE CATHOLIC parents of a three-yearold girl who was abducted last week from a holiday home in Portugal sought solace at a Mother's Day Mass on Sunday.
Kate and Gerry McCann from Rothley. Leicestershire, went to Mass at the 16th-century Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz in Praia da Luz. Algarve, three days after their daughter Madeleine was snatched from her bedroom. On Dia da Mae, the Portuguese version of Mother's Day, children present flowers to their mothers, who then lay the bouquets down in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The priest at the church warned the couple about the tradition and offered to cancel that part of the service, but Mrs McCann insisted that they go ahead. Altar girl Emily Seromenho gave Mrs McCann her bouquet of flowers at the priest's suggestion.
After the 90-minute Mass had finished dozens of Portuguese worshippers surrounded the McCanns, crying, hugging and kissing them on both cheeks.
On the steps of the church Mrs McCann gave a tearful plea for people to continue to pray for her daughter and thanked the community for its support. "I couldn't have asked for more," she said. "I just want to say thank you. Please continue to pray for Madeleine. She's lovely."
She was holding her daughter's pink cuddly toy, which she has carrying since she returned to her apart ment to find Madeleine missing from the bed where she had been sleeping between the cots of her two-year-old twin brother and sister.
The couple had been checking on their children every half an hour while eating at a tapas bar 50 yards away.
After Mass on Sunday Mrs McCann, a 38-year-old GP, told the congregation outside the church: "1 would like to offer my sincere gratitude to everybody, particularly the local community here who have offered so much support." Her husband said that the Mass had given them "strength and courage and hope. We continue to hope for the best possible outcome from this for us and for Madeleine," he added.
On Sunday evening the priest led 20 villagers in a prayer vigil with the McCanns inside their apartment.
On Monday, two vigils were held for Madeleine.. At lunchtime hundreds of people gathered outside Leicester's three hospitals. Mr McCann is a consultant cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital.