Kate McCann has written a special message for a church service to mark the one-year anniversary of her daughter Madeleine’s disappearance, a priest said today.
The statement will be read out tomorrow night in Praia da Luz, where the young girl vanished on May 3 last year.
Father Haynes Hubbard, the Anglican vicar of the Algarve, befriended Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry while they were in Portugal.
He and his young family arrived in Praia da Luz just days after Madeleine went missing and have found their lives dominated by the case.
Father Hubbard, who was born in England but has lived most of his life in Canada, said: “I have three small children and I feel very safe here in Luz.
“We came three days after Madeleine went missing so I didn’t know what it was like before.
“For the first month we, like everyone else, wept and cried and double-locked our doors.
“But the sun kept on shining and we realised like everyone else that an evil act had been perpetrated here.
“Violence was allowed to happen in the taking of a little girl, but that doesn’t define this beautiful little place.”
The McCanns became regular visitors to Praia da Luz’s village church of Our Lady of Light over the summer last year.
Services were held in the church at every key milestone after Madeleine went missing – on her fourth birthday on May 12, then after 50 days, 100 days and six months.
A vigil has also been held for her every Friday night, although tonight’s was cancelled because of tomorrow’s special service for the poignant first anniversary of her disappearance.
“Next Friday hopefully we won’t need one, but probably there will be another vigil,” Father Hubbard says sadly.
Tomorrow’s ecumenical service will be in Portuguese and English, and will include a mass.
The priest said: “Tomorrow will be simply a continuation of the prayers we have been offering.
“There will be a message from Kate McCann, some of their family will be here, there will be pictures of Madeleine and songs that we have been singing since she went missing.
“Bracelets and posters will also be given out. It is all to encourage people to keep on looking and not to think of this as something finished.”
He said he believed the McCanns would certainly have attended the service if they had not worried that their presence would have “distracted utterly” from the search for Madeleine.
“The story has become bigger than the search so often. I know Kate and Gerry feel very strongly that that shouldn’t happen,” he added.
Father Hubbard continues to wear a plastic yellow Find Madeleine campaign bracelet on his wrist, and he remains hopeful that good will prevail despite the horror in the community’s midst.
He said: “The church is called Our Lady of Light. It stands for this light that was shining when, even in the summer, Praia da Luz was pretty gloomy last year.
“The church offered a place of sanctuary and hope and of assurance that the evil that was perpetrated here in Praia da Luz will not win.
“We came to gather around Kate and Gerry to make sure that they knew that our prayers and our tears were with them.
“Even though they’re not here, they find great strength from that, I think.”
Father Hubbard accepts that people in Praia da Luz have been inconvenienced by being put in the world’s spotlight, but insists that this pales in comparison with the McCanns’ “sadness and devastation”.
“Our message needs to be that Praia da Luz is a lovely, safe place – come and visit us, come and bless those businesses,” he said.
Ironically, given the low crime rate in the village, Father Hubbard’s laptop was stolen from his home this week.
Although the computer contained nothing more important than his sermons, the theft is “annoying”, he said.