(Photo: AP / L'Osservatore Romano, Handout)
The parents of four-year-old Madeleine McCann, who was abducted in Portugal four weeks ago, met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Wednesday to receive a spiritual lift.
The British couple, Kate and Gerry McCann, sat in the front row during the audience and spoke briefly to the pope as they showed him a photograph of their missing daughter.
The Pope put his hand on the arms of both parents during the emotional meeting and blessed them.
"Today, meeting the Pontiff was an experience that has caused very mixed emotions for us, said Gerry McCann, at a press conference after the audience.
"In ordinary circumstances it would be a highlight for any Catholic to meet the Pope. Of course it's saddened by the marked realization that our daughter is still missing, he added.
"We know people everywhere are praying for our daughter and that helps sustain our belief that we can get her back safely.
Gerry McCann wrote on his web log prior to the visit: "We expect to receive a great spiritual lift, especially if we get to speak to the Pontiff personally.
The McCanns, who are devout Catholics, will hand out missing posters of Madeleine written in Italian before leaving the country. They are also due to visit Spain, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Germany to raise awareness of their daughter's disappearance.
The couple has expressed hope in drawing profound strength from any audience as well as helping to publicize the campaign to bring Madeleine home.
On Tuesday, the McCanns released the last video footage of their daughter, taken before her May 3 disappearance from her familys holiday apartment in the southern Algarve region of Portugal. Madeleine vanished after her parents left her and her siblings alone in their room while they went to a nearby tapas bar inside their hotel complex.