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
Editor's Note: Latest updates continue to be added below.
Pope Francis renewed his appeal for little Alfie this evening, saying in a tweet that the “suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”
The Holy Father, who met the father of Alfie last week in Rome, said he was “moved by the prayers and immense solidarity” shown for the toddler who is at the center of court battles between hospital authorities and his parents to keep him alive.
The tweet came after a day of high drama on Monday — the date the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool had set to switch off his life support, against the wishes of his parents Thomas Evans and Kate James.
That was meant to happen at noon, but was extended to 2.30pm, and then delayed further when Italy’s foreign and interior ministers announced they had granted little Alfie Italian citizenship.
“In this way, the Italian government hopes that being an Italian citizen allows the child to be immediately transferred to Italy,” said Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and Interior Minister Marco Minniti.
According to Il Foglio newspaper, their announcement was followed by strong words from Italy’s ambassador to Britain, Raffaele Trombetta, who called on Alder Hey to “stop the procedure of suspension of ventilation to Alfie Evans or charges for the homicide of an Italian citizen will be filed.”
The Christian Legal Centre, which represents Alfie's parents, said Trombetta had “urgently contacted the court with a request for the Italian government to be allowed to intervene in the case and seek the return of their citizen Alfie Evans to Italy.”
Thomas Evans posted on Facebook: “Alfie has been granted Italian citizenship. We await for the [Italian] foreign minister to call Boris Johnson.” Speaking outside the hospital, he said: “I'm stood here now and Alfie is still here. Why? Because I'm still fighting for him, I'm still fighting and so is Alfie.”
A conference call then took place between the family’s legal team, Justice Anthony Hayden who since February has been ruling to end Alfie’s life against his parents’ wishes, Ambassador Trombetta, Tom and Kate, and the hospital’s administration. The meeting was to decide if Alfie could leave for Italy, now that he is an Italian citizen.
The Register has learned from a source close to the family that Justice Hayden “rejected every argument” and “completely disregarded everything and everyone.” The source said Hayden also rejected an appeal to give Alfie’s parents and legal team seven days to seek alternatives, adding his decisions were “outrageous.”
Hayden ordered Alfie's ventilator to be removed at 9.30pm local time but the family urgently appealed again to the Court of Appeal.
In the early hours of this morning, Mariella Enoc, president of the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù children’s hospital in Rome, arrived at the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool with instructions from the Pope to do “everything possible” to save the life of the toddler. Enoc was accompanied by a medical specialist in anaesthesia and resuscitations and stayed in direct contact with the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Although she came as an envoy of the Holy Father, Enoc was not allowed to see Alfie nor meet hospital chiefs. She said she spoke with the parents, saying that “if you want the good of someone, there can be no imposition of ideological opposition on individual battles.”
Also on Monday, a group of protesters supporting Alfie tried to storm the hospital before police officers formed a line to block the entrance.
About 200 people turned up to protest outside the hospital after judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused today to intervene in the case.
As well as the Bambino Gesù, the Giannina Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa has also offered help to Alfie, saying it would fly him to the Italian city and care for him for free.
UPDATES (Rome time):
April 23, 10.42pm
From Alfie's Italian lawyers, Giuristi per la Vita: "The defence lawyers of Alfie Evans have just filed an urgent appeal with the Italian Consulate in London, which acts as a judge for the guardianship of Italian minors abroad The ambassador has already been notified through our friends of the Steadfast Onlus association who deal with diplomatic relations and have facilitated the acquisition of Italian citizenship for Alfie. We await that the aforementioned judge for the guardianship takes urgent precautionary measures to issue the passports and orders the immediate repatriation of the minor to Rome (Bambin Gesù) or Genoa (Gaslini), Italy, by ambulance / air transport. We believe that any activity of detachment of vital supports will constitute from now on a formal offense against an Italian citizen abroad, punishable in any form."
From a source close to the family: "Twenty minutes ago, they started trying to kill him and the Italian consul is attempting to intevene."
SteadfastOnlus, part of the LifeAid project and in direct contact with the family, reports that despite having his ventilator removed, Alfie "has been breathing alone for half an hour. There are 30 policemen outside his room."
Video taken of Alfie today, showing him to be responsive and alert (via LifeSiteNews):
24 April, 8.04am
Speaking outside Alder Hey hospital, Tom Evans tells reporters that Alfie has been breathing unassisted for nine hours.
Alfie is being given oxygen and water.
Italian lawyer Filippo Martini defending Alfie says Italian medical professionals have been giving “remote instructions” to Tom Evans. Defense Minister Pinotti confirms availability of military plane to take him to Italy. “We are helping the miracle... but let the miracle happen.” Marinella Enoc, president of Vatican's Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital, also says the Bambino Gesù team is ready and Italian Ambassador to UK has been informed. Military plane has been provided.
25 April, 7.09pm
Thomas Evans has threatened to take out a private prosecution for murder against doctors treating Alfie, British media is reporting. At an Appeal Court hearing on Wednesday it emerged that Thomas has been considering taking out the private prosecutions against three doctors for "conspiracy for murder".
On Tuesday, Justice Hayden ruled that Alfie should not be allowed to leave Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool and travel to a hospital in Italy.
Meanwhile, reports say that Alfie is now “struggling” and is not expected to live much longer. Sources close to the family have told the Register that Alfie is being denied fluids as well as oxygen.
Filippo Martini, a lawyer with the Italian organization Giuristi per la Vita which is defending Alfie, a newly naturalized Italian citizen, has said Alder Hey will face a criminal prosecution if the withdrawal of vital life support continues and Alfie dies. He told the Register:
"Any child without fluids will die, especially a child in such a delicate condition as Alfie. This means that if he dies now, today, 25th April, it must be considered that he is dying not only due to the severity of the disease but by dehydration caused by the suspension of fluids.
So given the situation, death due to a correlation of causes cannot be excluded, and therefore the suspension of fluids and oxygen are directly responsible for death. He is not dying only because of the disease. His condition is worsened by the lack of oxygen and fluids.
The correlation between his worsening condition and the active suspension by the hospital of vital life supports can be demonstrated. And this will be demonstrated by the legal medical commission supporting Alfie's family.
The clear act of suspending ventilation and nutrition means health professionals do not have a passive role in the death of a patient but contribute to it.
Lack of vital assistance to a patient hospitalized in a public hospital will then become the cornerstone of a major judicial case in which the NHS (Britain’s national health system), as well as all relevant personnel who have been on call since Monday 23rd April at 9.17 pm [the time Alfie’s life support was removed], could be held responsible for denying vital basic support to a child.
The hospital is responsible for causing the death of a patient and the health personnel denying care are liable to be accused of malpractice, leading to the family to claim millions in compensation and a legal case that will demand to know the reason for this lack of care of a baby in a NHS public hospital."
Pope Francis has reportedly ordered a Vatican-approved "military air ambulance" to be prepared to take Alfie to Italy.
Paul Diamond, counsel for Tom Evans, said: "There is a military air ambulance on standby at the request of the Pope."
The UK's Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by Tom Evans and so Alfie will not be allowed to go to Italy for treatment.
Three judges have been analysing the appeal which followed Justice Hayden's ruling yesterday that Alfie should not be allowed to leave Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool and travel for treatment abroad.
Speaking at the Court of Appeal, Justice McFarlane rejected the parents' appeal, saying "this is awful for everyone concerned. We are in the middle of palliative care plan at Alder Hey Hospital. I can see no basis that judge was wrong.”
Protests over the British authorities’ handling of Alfie has brought a global outcry, but also on the steps of the Vatican. Lidia Polisano describes what she saw:
“On Sunday, April 22, I received a message from a friend of mine named Daniela asking to go to support Christine, an advocate of the Evans family, in front of the Holy Office in the Vatican, in order to solicit a Holy See passport for Alfie.
I had never seen Christine before. I must say that I was shocked by the cry of pain of this young woman who seemed to be trying a last effort to save Alfie.
Her screams were so loud that I'm pretty sure they would have heard them inside [the Vatican].
I remember her words very well. "Holy Father save your son!" I tried to console her but at a certain point I burst into tears, too. I remember Christine, falling on her knees; she was crying and clinging to the fence of the Holy Office. For an hour she cried, and cried out for help but without a response.
The only thing we could do was to at least get the attention of the Swiss Guard and the State Police who told us they could not do anything. Later Christine had to go because she was leaving for Liverpool.
I was with another girl from a university pro-life association and we talked to an officer in the passport office.
I told him: "The Holy Father promised to do everything to save Alfie." He told me: “Ok, let's save Alfie but then the other 20 or 200? Let's leave it to those who understand it."
I told him “OK, we let them kill Charlie [Gard], then Isaiah [Haastrup], and now also Alfie.”
In the days that followed, the Pope reportedly instructed an air ambulance to be placed on standby to bring Alfie to Italy. Diplomatic sources in Rome also say it is very probable that the Pope and Holy See diplomats put pressure on the Italian government to grant Alfie Italian citizenship and make efforts to bring him to Italy, although this has not been confirmed.
April 26, 11.30pm
Tom Evans said he would work with doctors to give his son "dignity and comfort" and appealed for privacy "for everyone concerned," saying he would no longer make statements or give interviews about his son's case.
"Our lives have been turned upside down by the intense focus on Alfie and his situation," Evans said outside the hospital.
But he thanked the Alder Hey staff "for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too."
His tone strongly contrasted with his earlier statements, when he said doctors were wrong about Alfie's prognosis and threatened to prosecute them for homicide. This has led some to speculate that he has struck some kind of deal with the hospital to allow him to be taken home.
The global attention to the case has led officials in Poland and Italy to implicitly criticize Britain's courts and state-run National Health Service on the case.
Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said the withdrawal of life support for Alfie was proof that Europe was losing its "fundamental Christian values," the AP reported.
"It's more proof that the civilization of death is starting to win," she said.
Evans said he and his wife, Kate, were "very grateful" to all those who had supported them around the world, especially in Poland and Italy.
The battle over Alfie let to regular protests outside the hospital, at times trying to storm its entrance. Alder Hey hospital chairman David Henshaw and chief executive Louise Shepherd said staff had been subjected to a "barrage of highly abusive and threatening language and behavior," AP reported.
Evans asked in his statement that all those concerned for Alfie "return back to your everyday lives" and allow them and Alder Hey "to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it."
April 27, 8.59am
Pro-life groups in Italy are holding a day of prayer and fasting for Alfie.