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Police May Interview Portuguese Priests in Missing Madeleine Probe

Original Source: CHRISTIAN POST: 19 SEPTEMBER 2007
By Jennifer Gold Christian Post Correspondent
Wed, Sep. 19 2007 08:43 AM E
Two priests who counseled the parents of missing 4-year-old Madeleine McCann over the four months they remained in Portugal might soon be interviewed by police.

Police are contemplating whether to question Anglican priest Haynes Hubbard and Roman Catholic Father Jose Manuel Pacheco as witnesses, to see if any further information could be gained for their current investigations.

The clergymen became close to British couple Kate and Gerry McCann after their daughter’s disappearance on May 3, and Pacheco even gave them keys to the Senhora da Luz (Our Lady of the Light) church in Praia da Luz, Portugal, to allow them to pray in privacy whenever they wanted.

Over the past week, Portuguese newspapers have speculated that the priests "received information in confession" from the McCanns which could help police in their investigations. However, the claims were not sourced.

The latest news comes after both the mother and father of missing Madeleine were declared suspects in a surprising twist to a case that has pulled on the heartstrings of people worldwide.

Philomena McCann, Gerry’s sister, said police have suggested that Madeleine might have been killed accidentally rather than kidnapped, as has been believed since the British girl disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, a resort town in the southern Algarve region of Portugal.

Local newspapers have pointed out that if the couple had disclosed anything privately to Pacheco there would be potential conflict between the Catholic Church and the law.

The confidentiality of religious confession is sacrosanct in Catholicism and would take precedence even over criminal law.

Pacheco indicated that he already expected the church to be involved in the police investigations.

"I find it perfectly normal that police would carry out searches in Praia da Luz, and not excepting the church," the Catholic priest said.

Anglican priest Hubbard, meanwhile, has said he believed it to be "ridiculous" to imagine that the church could be used to conceal anything in the Madeleine case.

It has been nearly five months since four-year-old Madeleine disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment while her parents were dining at a nearby restaurant.

Since their daughter’s disappearance, the McCanns have launched an international campaign to find her, enlisting the aid of celebrities such as soccer star David Beckham and J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter fantasy books. They have also traveled to various countries where they have met press and distributed posters of Madeleine with the hope that someone may have spotted her.

The McCanns, who are both Roman Catholics, even met with Pope Benedict XVI, who put his hand on their arms during an emotional meeting and blessed them.

Most recently, on Sunday, Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, pledged $200,000 to help the McCanns clear their name.

Branson has also contacted several other wealthy Britons to encourage them to contribute to a legal defense fund for the McCanns, a spokeswoman said.

Branson had already contributed to a $2 million fund set up to help find Madeleine.


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