Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Tom Evans, the father of toddler Alfie who UK authorities have ruled must have his life support switched off against his parent’s wishes, met with Pope Francis this morning to plead that his son be given asylum to receive alternative medical care.
At the private audience early this morning in the Pope’s Santa Marta residence, Evans read out a statement in which he stressed that little Alfie is “sick but not dying” and pleaded with the Holy Father that he be brought to Italy to receive treatment at the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù hospital.
Evans and Alfie's mother, Kate James, are battling with the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool and English courts to continue to keep him on life support.
Hospital doctors say there is nothing they can do for the toddler who they say has an undiagnosed degenerative brain disease, but his parents have been fighting to keep him on a ventilator.
Despite their parent’s wishes, High Court judge, Justice Anthony Hayden, ruled in February that the hospital can remove Alfie’s life support.
A later appeal to the European Court of Human Rights failed, and the parent's appeal earlier this week to have Alfie taken to Italy for treatment was also dismissed by the UK's Court of Appeal.
“We do not understand why our child amongst many more are being treated like this,” Evans said. “We believe it is because he is disabled and the U.K. want to legalize euthanasia.
“Please help us save our innocent child and give us the grace of asylum to keep our family safe and to stop all of this,” he added.
In a video press statement not shown by the Liverpool Echo newspaper which Alfie's supporters say has had a “monopoly on the story” but has been “obscuring the facts of the case,” Evans listed the kind of care his son, and he and Kate, have been receiving from Alder Hey hospital.
“How can this Trust get away with this?,” he asked. “They should forfeit any ability to dictate Alfie’s best interests and let people and doctors who care look after our son, not terminate his life because of their failure to diagnose him and treat him effectively!”
“Alfie, the family and all of our supporters are stronger than ever and will keep fighting all the way,” Evans said.
“We will never give up on Alfie!”
The Italian Catholic newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana reports that the meeting was made possible by Italian Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, who accompanied Evans to the audience.
The Pope instructed Bishop Cavina to maintain contact between the family and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to find ways to ensure respect for the dignity of the child.
At his weekly general audience this morning, the Pope drew attention to little Alfie and Vincent Lambert, a 42 year old disabled Frenchman who is also facing state imposed execution against the will of his parents.
"I would repeat and strongly confirm that the only master of life from beginning to natural end is God! It is our duty, our duty is to do everything to protect life. Let us think in silence and pray that the lives of all people and especially of these two brothers are respected. Let us pray in silence."
On Sunday, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray for Vincent and Alfie who he said are facing a “delicate, very painful and complex situations.”
“We pray that every patient is always respected in his dignity and treated in a way that is appropriate to his condition, and with the agreement of family members, doctors and other health professionals, with great respect for life,” he said.
On Tuesday, Father Gabriele Brusco, an Italian priest serving in the archdiocese of Westminster, traveled to Liverpool to give little Alfie the Anointing of the Sick.
But today's private audience comes amid silence from Evans’ bishop, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool, and the bishops’ conference of England and Wales.
This is a developing story that has been updated.
Here below are Tom Evans’ statements in full:
Tom Evans’ Message Delivered to the Holy Father
I cannot thank you enough for allowing me the opportunity to be here in front of Your Holiness today.
Our child is sick but not dying and does not deserve to die. He is not terminally ill nor diagnosed.
We have been trying our best to find out his condition, to treat or manage it.
I am now here, in front of Your Holiness, to plead for asylum. Our hospitals in the U.K. do not want to give disabled children the chance of life and instead assisting in the death of children.
We now have realized our son’s life does not mean much to the NHS [National Health Service].
We plead to you to help our son.
Alder Hey hospital do not want to let Alfie leave the hospital unless he is dead!
Alfie is not dying, so we don’t want to take him out in the way the hospital wish us to.
We see life and potential in our son and we want to bring him here to Italy, to the Bambino Gesù, where we know he is safe and he will not be euthanized.
When Alfie shows me and his mum any sign of suffering or dying, we will enjoy every last moment with him, but Alfie has not yet shown us he is ready to go, so we continue to fight just as he shows us to.
If Your Holiness helps our child, you will be potentially saving the future for our children in the U.K., especially the disabled. We pray the problem we are facing is solved peacefully and respectfully. No child deserves this.
Especially not a child of God.
The judges in the U.K. have not told the truth about our son and his condition. They have listened to everything the hospital have said and agreed with them. But there is no real medical evidence to say Alfie will die, or that he has this form of disease.
Since Dec. 14, Alder Hey have asked us more than 100 times to remove Alfie’s ventilation, even when he came off the life support three times. Doctors in the U.K. said he would never be able to do this, but Alfie proved top experts wrong and they still pushed me and his 19 year old mum to let him die, even when he came off life support.
Alfie has been on life support, with a tube down his nose and throat, for 15 months. This is very wrong. He should be, and needs to be, on a tracheostomy. This is clinically and professionally very wrong.
We do not understand why our child amongst many more are being treated like this. We believe it is because he is disabled and the U.K. want to legalize euthanasia.
Please help us save our innocent child and give us the grace of asylum to keep our family safe and to stop all of this.
The hospital are depriving us from sleep and not allowing us to sleep with our own son we have to sit in a chair all night with him to comfort and protect him.
We would firstly like to thank all of our supporters and those who have helped us with our fight, from the bottom of our hearts — from me, Kate and Alfie!
It means the world to us and gives us the strength to continue!
Secondly , we would like to thank Alder Hey for their treatment of Alfie and his family this last week!
For lying to the police, claiming that Alfie was ward of court
For keeping him prisoner under police guard
For stripping him of his dignity
For banning his mum Kate from the hospital and stopping them from being together at this time and stealing precious moments
For taking away our seating arrangements in his cubical
For taking away the rights of him and his family to be together
For depriving Alfie of the comfort, touch and love of his family that he has been used to every day of his life
For depriving me of sleep when it seems perfectly OK for the nursing staff to fall asleep instead of looking after him! I have video evidence of this.
And for trying to dictate what is in Alfie’s best interests when we have several pieces of evidence showing Alder Hey to be acting contrary to his best interests!
Leaving him in poor and squalid conditions, in urine and feces and with moldy feeding tubes!
How can this Trust get away with this? They should forfeit any ability to dictate Alfie’s best interests and let people and doctors who care look after our son, not terminate his life because of their failure to diagnose him and treat him effectively!
But we want them to know they can’t break us or wear us down.
Alfie, the family and all of our supporters are stronger than ever and will keep fighting all the way.
We will never give up on Alfie!
Tom Evans with supporters and a member of the Swiss Guard outside the Casa Santa Marta residence.