Page last updated at 21:14 GMT, Saturday, 3 May 2008 22:14 UK

'Pray like mad for our Madeleine'

Praia da Luz, Algarve
Balloons of hope were set free in Portugal for Madeleine McCann

Kate and Gerry McCann have asked for prayers and expressed their profound gratitude to all who have helped in the search for missing Madeleine.

The couple said in an interview on the first anniversary of her disappearance they hoped it might mark the end of intense media scrutiny of them.

They attended church services near their home in Rothley, Leicestershire and later at evening mass in Liverpool.

A special service was also held in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz.

Three-year-old Madeleine vanished from the family's holiday apartment in Portugal on 3 May 2007.

During the 30-minute service at Rothley's Anglican Parish Church of St Mary and St John, Mrs McCann asked fellow worshippers to "pray like mad" for her daughter's safe return.

'Unsustainable' coverage

The McCanns, who remain official suspects in Madeleine's disappearance, carried out a series of media interviews ahead of the anniversary.

In marking the poignant one-year landmark, the couple said they had only survived the past 12 months by not blaming each other for what happened.

Madeleine and her two younger siblings were left alone in the family's apartment while their parents dined at a nearby tapas bar with a group of friends.

The McCanns called on Portuguese detectives to open their files in the case so they could find out what leads were being pursued.

The couple also said they hoped the attention on them would wane after Madeleine's fifth birthday on 12 May.

Mr McCann said the massive media coverage of the little girl's disappearance was "unsustainable".

We pray that she may be reunited with those who love her
Archbishop of York

Speaking briefly at the Rothley service, Mrs McCann thanked the community for their prayers and show of support for the family.

Madeleine's great aunt, Janet Kennedy, said afterwards: "I am not sure how she mustered the strength to do so.

"It (the service) was a great comfort to them both."

Madeleine's uncle, John McCann, explains why he has returned to Portugal

A number of other relatives - including Mr McCann's brother John, his sister Trish Cameron, her husband Sandy, who all live in his home city of Glasgow, and Mrs McCann's cousin Michael Wright - travelled to Praia da Luz on behalf of Madeleine's parents to attend an evening service in the Algarve village's church of Our Lady of Light.

The Archbishop of York has written a prayer for Madeleine to mark the anniversary.

Dr John Sentamu wrote: "Keep her safe and take away her fear and anxiety. May your holy angels guard and protect her. We pray that she may be reunited with those who love her. Give hope to all her loved ones and hear our cry for her safe return."

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