LONDON (AP) – Alfie Evans, a sick British toddler whose parents received support for treatment at the Vatican Children's Hospital during a protracted litigation by the Pope, died on early Saturday, five days after his release
The Parents Kate James and Tom Evans announced the death of their 23-month-old son on social media and said they were "heartbroken." Alfie had a rare degenerative brain disease that left him with almost no brain function, and several courts ruled that it was not in his interest to keep him alive.
"My gladiator put down his shield and got his wings at 02:30." Evans, 21, said in Facebook Post with a broken heart and crying emojis.
Alfie's case sparked a medical ethics debate that resonated far beyond Britain. Doctors in Liverpool, England, who monitored his care said that further treatment was in vain and he could die. But his parents fought for months to convince the judges that they could take him to the Vatican hospital, where the livelihood was to be secured.
Pope Francis, who had publicly supported the Evans and James campaign, wrote his condolences on Twitter on Saturday
"I am deeply touched by the death of little Alfie," said Francis. "Today I pray especially for his parents how God the Father receives him in his tender embrace."
Italy even granted Alfie citizenship and put a military plane on standby to transport it to Rome if the courts allowed it.  Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano tweeted on Saturday: "Goodbye, little Alfie, we loved you."
The tensions between the toddler's parents and the hospital had waned in recent days. Evans, who had previously said doctors were wrong about Alfie's prognosis and threatened to resume the fight for care in court, demanded a ceasefire and promised to work with the hospital staff to give his son "dignity and comfort." ,
"He was turned upside down by the intense focus on Alfie and his situation," Evans said Thursday in front of Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital, where Alfie was treated for more than a year.
He thanked the hospital staff for their dignity and professionalism, while for them it must be an incredibly difficult time.
Under British law, courts are asked to intervene when parents and physicians disagree about the treatment of a child, in which case the rights of the child override the parents' right to decide what is best for their offspring
Alder Hey issued a statement expressing "wholehearted sympathy and condolence to Alfie's family."
We feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom, and all his family, and our thoughts are with them ", it said in the statement. "It was a devastating trip for them, and we would demand that their privacy and the privacy of Alder Hey's employees be respected."
Alfie's case received great attention outside Britain, especially in Catholic countries. Pope Francis met with Evans and appealed that the wishes of the boy's parents should be respected, saying that only God could decide who would die.
Officials in largely Catholic Poland and Italy have criticized the British courts and the state health service  A leading Italian legal politician, the Venetian Governor Luca Zaia, said the "so-called civilized world has delivered the latest evidence of enormous discourtesy" ,
Supporters of the parents regularly held angry protests outside the hospital trying to storm its entrance. People left flowers outside the hospital on Saturday, but Alder Hey asked to leave memories in a park next door so that the work of the hospital was not interrupted.
Alfie's mother, 20-year-old Kate James, wrote that she was heartbroken over Alfie's death, but added, "Thank you all for your support."