The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have defended Alder Hey hospital’s handling of dispute over seriously ill child Alfie Evans.
Hours after Alfie’s father, Tom Evans, met Pope Francis, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales said the “professionalism and care for severely ill children shown at Alder Hey Hospital is to be recognised and affirmed”.
During the meeting, Tom Evans begged Pope Francis to grant his son “asylum”, saying that British hospitals “do not want to give disabled children the chance of life and instead assisting in the death of children.”
“If your holiness helps our child you will be potentially saving the future for our children in the UK, especially the disabled,” he added.
Following the meeting, Pope Francis mentioned Alfie Evans at his general audience on Wednesday, saying: “I would like to reiterate and strongly confirm that the only master over life, from beginning to natural end, is God! And our duty, our duty is to do everything to preserve life.”
The Pope also told Tom Evans that the Vatican’s Secretariat of State would ensure a “decisive diplomatic channel is opened up for Alfie” so that “the dignity of his life is respected”.
In a statement a few hours later, the bishops said: “We affirm our conviction that all those who are and have been taking the agonising decisions regarding the care of Alfie Evans act with integrity and for Alfie’s good as they see it.”
“We know that recently reported public criticism of their work is unfounded as our chaplaincy care for the staff, and indeed offered to the family, has been consistently provided.”
The Vatican-owned Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome has agreed to take Alfie, who has an undiagnosed degenerative neurological condition, after Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital said his life support should be removed. Alder Hey is contesting attempts to move the infant, saying that transferring him would be too dangerous.
In their statement, the bishops said: “We note the offer of the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome to care for Alfie Evans. It is for that Hospital to present to the British Courts, where crucial decisions in conflicts of opinion have to be taken, the medical reasons for an exception to be made in this tragic case.”
“With the Holy Father, we pray that, with love and realism, everything will be done to accompany Alfie and his parents in their deep suffering,” they added.