Father of Alfie Evans meets pope, begs for help to save his son

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Begging Pope Francis to help his
son, Alfie, Tom Evans met with the pontiff, pleading for “asylum” in
Italy so his seriously ill son may receive care and not be euthanized in

“If Your Holiness helps our child, Your Holiness
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 as no child deserves this,” Evans said in a statement he
personally delivered to the pope April 18.

The private meeting came before the pope appealed
publicly yet again for appropriate care and respect for 23-month-old Alfie

“I would like to affirm and vigorously uphold that
the only master of life – from its beginning to natural end – is God,” the
pope said at the end of his weekly general audience April 18.

“Our duty is to do everything to safeguard life,”
he said before leading the thousands of people in the square in a moment of
prayer and reflection.

He asked those at the audience to pray that the lives of
all people, especially Alfie, be respected.

The pope’s appeal — the third he has made publicly–
came after he met with Alfie’s father, who also attended the general audience
with VIP seating in the square.

Evans flew to Rome overnight from England to meet with
the pope. He posted photos and commentaries about the encounter on the Facebook
page, “Alfie’s Army Official.”

The encounter lasted 20 minutes, according to the Italian
Catholic news site, “La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana,” which had one of
its reporters accompany Evans at the meeting. The news site said the
last-minute meeting was made possible by Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, whom
the site said was designated by the pope to act as a conduit between the Evans
family and the Vatican Secretariat of State.

rubbing a small green rosary between his fingers, Evans, who is Catholic, told
reporters that his son is being “held hostage” at the hospital, and
he and his wife are “being treated like criminals and prisoners.” The
family has been fighting to remove Alfie from a Liverpool hospital to be
transferred elsewhere.

said he thought the meeting with the pope went very well. “I’ve seen the
love and the care and the emotion in his eyes. I’m so fortunate to have had
that opportunity” to meet the pope and talk about saving his son, he told
Catholic News Service.

prayed every day,” he said, and though “God hasn’t come through yet,”
he thought the next step should be the pope, because he understands that no one
has the right over Alfie’s life, but God.

also asked the pope to speak out publicly again during the general audience in
support of Alfie, and the pope did.

asked the pope to help him bring the baby to Italy to the Vatican-run Bambino
Gesu hospital, and the
pope said, “Yes” and immediately turned and spoke to Bishop Cavina,
according to Patricia Gooding-Williams, who was at the papal meeting acting as
the translator. Bishop Cavina worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State for a
number of years before being ordained a bishop in 2012.

pope blessed Evans and told him he really respected his courage, saying he had “the
same courage as God has for his children,” Gooding-Williams told CNS.

In a statement then posted on Facebook, Evans thanked the
pope for meeting with him and begged him for his help.

“I am now here in front of Your Holiness to plea for
asylum. Our hospitals in the U.K. do not want to give disabled children the
chance of life and instead the hospitals in the U.K. are now assisting death in
children,” the statement read.

“We have fought for Alfie for one and a half years
and we now have realized our son’s life does not mean much to the NHS,” the
national health service in the U.K., he wrote.

“We plea with you to help our son!”

Evans said in the written statement, “We see life
and potential in our son and we want to bring him here to Italy at Bambino Gesu
where we know he is safe and he will not be euthanized.”

Mariella Enoc, president of the Vatican-run hospital,
said they are ready to welcome Alfie.

“We certainly do not promise to cure him, but to
take care of him, without aggressive treatment,” she said in a statement
published by the Italian bishops’ newspaper, Avvenire, April 14.

Three specialists from Bambino Gesu examined Alfie at the
Liverpool hospital and determined “a positive outcome would be difficult,
but the baby’s suffering can be alleviated,” she said.

Doctors in the U.K. have not been able to make a
definitive diagnosis of the 23-month-old child’s degenerative neurological

However, doctors at the hospital have said keeping the
toddler on life-support would be “futile,” and he should begin
receiving palliative care. A high court judge backed a lower court’s ruling
saying the hospital can go against the wishes of the family and withdraw

In an effort to fight that decision, the parents, Tom
Evans and Kate James, brought their case to the European court of human rights,
which found no indication of any human rights violations and declared their
application “inadmissible” March 28.

The parents want to transfer their son to Bambino Gesu to
see if it is possible to diagnose and treat his condition, but the high court
ruling would prevent that from happening, according to the parents’ lawyer.

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