Villagers in Praia da Luz have prayed for Madeleine McCann every Sunday since her disappearance 10 years ago, it has emerged.
Madeleine was aged three when she vanished from a holiday apartment in the Algarve village at about 9pm on May 3 in 2007.
A special church service will be held at the Church of Nossa Senhora da Luz for all missing people, including Madeleine, at 9pm on Wednesday.
It is understood Father Haynes Hubbard, of Canada, the priest at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance, will be present at the service.
“There has been some sort of a service every year and it is always at about the same time that she went missing,” a member of the church said.
“There are also prayers for Madeleine every Sunday. They take place every Sunday during the intercession.
“People have always asked that that continue and all the priests have been happy to do so.”
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have vowed to do “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” to find her.
Last week, British detectives working on the case revealed they are now pursuing a “significant” line of inquiry.
Local residents described how the disappearance of Madeleine, from apartment 5A on Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva, is now part of the village’s history.
They recounted the minutes after the alarm was raised that the child was missing from the room where she was sleeping as her parents ate supper nearby.
Writer David S Jones, 72, said staff from the then-Mark Warner Ocean Club complex were at his restaurant, the Mirage, when news broke.
“Many of the workers for Mark Warner were gap-year students and were here,” Mr Jones, the creator of Fireman Sam, said.
“We closed the bar and everybody went out looking, it was about 10.30pm. We spent days looking for her.”
A local businessman, who did not wish to be named, remembered seeing dozens of people comb the village for Madeleine.
“It is something we will have to live with and we may never know what happened,” he said.
“People here never forget - when you walk or drive around, you see reminders of what happened.
“I remember watching people searching the beach with torches from about 10.30pm. People were searching for days.”
Freddie Nicholas, 21, moved close to Praia da Luz with his family in 2005 and heard helicopters looking for her.
“It will take the people of Luz a very long time to move on from this, it is part of their history now,” the journalism student said.
“It has shocked Portugal to the core. The attention Luz got was crazy considering it is a sleepy beach resort in the Algarve.”
The area had seen an increase in tourism in the years leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance.
Residents said a combination of the incident and the recession heavily affected the amount of visitors to the village.
In recent years, more people have been returning to Praia da Luz but the numbers have not returned to pre-2007 levels.
“People used to ask about it all the time, they used to ask where everything happened,” a local businesswoman said.
“You still see people taking photographs of the apartment every day. But now, if you mention it most people will say ‘oh, was that here?’.
“A lot of people with children come here, especially in the summer holidays. They play tennis on the courts at the Ocean Club.”
Mr Jones, who moved to Praia da Luz from London in 1986, slammed “lies” that had been printed about it by international media.
“There were people who wouldn’t come here if they had children because of what they had heard,” the father-of-four said.
“It must have had an impact. You could see it all around. I am a parent myself and I can’t imagine how devastating it is for the McCanns.
“It must be absolutely awful. But I want to defend this place because it doesn’t deserve the smearing that it has had.”
Mr Jones said his children grew up in Praia da Luz and thought it was a “great place”, adding he feels “privileged” to live here.
Pedro Lemos, 22, a charity volunteer from Lisbon, has spent the previous few years working in the area.
“The Algarve is the secret safest spot in the whole of Europe,” he said.
“I think when people with children come here once they will come back. In Praia da Luz, everyone knows each other. It is so quiet and has a very relaxed atmosphere.”
Mr Nicholas described how tourism had “quietened down” after Madeleine went missing but did return years later.
“People realised once the details came out that it was a very isolated event,” he said.
“Nothing has happened like that before here - it is unprecedented both before and after. It is not a dangerous place.”
Praia da Luz, meaning Beach of Light, has remained largely unchanged since May 2007.
Holidaymakers - mainly retired people or those with young children - still sit on the sandy beach and walk around the palm tree-lined village.
Pictures of Madeleine, appealing for information, were posted around the resort after she went missing but none remain today.
Holiday apartment 5A has since been sold, with bars placed across the window to the room where she was sleeping.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley last week said there are “significant investigative avenues” that are of “great interest” to both the UK and Portuguese teams.
“All the different hypotheses have to remain open,” he added.
In 2013, four people were identified as suspects but no evidence was found to implicate them and they have since been ruled out of the inquiry.
Police working on the case continue to receive information on a daily basis.
In an interview with the BBC’s Fiona Bruce on Friday, Mr and Mrs McCann said they took heart from the “real progress” made by the Metropolitan Police.
“We just have to go with the process and follow it through - whatever it takes for as long as it takes,” Mrs McCann, 49, said.
“There is still hope that we can find Madeleine.”
In a message posted on Facebook, she wrote: “Ten years - there’s no easy way to say it, describe it, accept it. And now here we are ... Madeleine, our Madeleine - ten years.
“Most days are similar to the rest - another day. May 3rd 2017 - another day. But ten years - a horrible marker of time, stolen time.”