The image shows how much the star has come to care for Mercy since meeting her on a previous visit to Malawi - and the lengths she will go to convince the country's courts she should be allowed to adopt the four-year-old
Photo: Reuters
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Madonna releases first picture of the little girl who won her heart

14 APRIL 2009
The softness in her face as she cradles the child she desperately hopes will complete her family is not a side of Madonna we have often seen.

Mercy James slept soundly in the pop star's lap when she visited the little girl in Malawi earlier this month.

The singer released the picture because she wants the world to see that beneath her carefully constructed image as the supreme pop diva is a woman with vast reserves of love to offer the four-year-old.

Released through her record company days after a judge ruled she could go not go ahead with plans to adopt Mercy, it follows Madonna's heartfelt statement to Malawi's Nation newspaper.

"I want to provide Mercy with a home, a loving family environment and the best education and healthcare possible," insisted the mother of three, who's appealing the decision.

"And it is my hope that she, like David, will one day return to Malawi and help the people of their country," she added.

Those around her have spoken of the singer's "instant and profound connection" with Mercy. Meanwhile, her former husband Guy Ritchie recently praised her as a "fantastic and loving mother who cares deeply about her own children, and children who may need additional help and support".

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