Pope Francis is remembering British infant Charlie Gard and his parents in his prayers this week as the family prepares for Charlie’s death.
“Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering,” said Greg Burke, a spokesman for the Holy See, according to the Scottish Catholic Observer. “The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”
The pope first expressed his support for Charlie and his parents in June. He urged the hospital to respect Charlie’s parents wishes, and assured the family that he is praying for them. A Vatican hospital also offered to treat Charlie if his hospital in London would transfer him.
Charlie is not expected to survive to his 1st birthday on Aug. 4. He suffers from a rare mitochondrial disease and brain damage. On Thursday, a judge ruled that Charlie will be taken to hospice to die, rather than home as his parents requested.
Religious leaders in England and Wales also said they are praying for Charlie and his family.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also issued a statement July 24 in which they expressed their “deepest sympathy and compassion” for Charlie and his parents.
It is for Charlie, his parents and family that we all pray, hoping that they are able, as a family, to be given the support and the space to find peace in the days ahead,” the statement said.
Their farewell to their tiny and precious baby touches the hearts of all who, like Pope Francis, have followed this sad and complex story. Charlie’s life will be lovingly cherished until its natural end,” the statement continued.
On Monday, Connie Yates and Chris Gard decided to end the legal battle to get their son experimental treatment. Based on new evidence, the couple said Charlie’s condition has deteriorated too much and there no longer is any hope of the experimental treatment working.
His parents and Great Ormond Street Hospital have been in a months-long legal battle over his treatment. Their final request to a judge this week was to be allowed to take Charlie home to die.
On Thursday, a judge ruled that Charlie will be moved to hospice and his life support will be removed at a time not publicly disclosed. He will not be allowed to go home, as his parents wished.
Charlie’s parents have long expressed the desire to be allowed to take him home to die. However, their first choice was to take Charlie to the United States for an experimental treatment. They raised more than $1.5 million for his medical care.
His parents said they knew the chance of the experimental treatment working was slim, but they wanted to try anyway for Charlie’s sake.
However, the courts and hospital refused to allow them to transfer their son to another hospital. About a month ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the hospital can remove Charlie’s life support and allow him to die. However, the hospital later agreed to consider new evidence involving Charlie’s condition before taking him off the ventilator.
But on Monday, lawyer Grant Armstrong said experts confirmed that it is too late to treat their son.
The BBC reports Armstrong “told the presiding judge Mr Justice Francis that US neurologist Dr Michio Hirano had said he was no longer willing to offer the baby experimental therapy after he saw the results of a new MRI scan last week.”
Hirano previously said Charlie had an 11 percent to 56 percent chance of benefiting from the experimental treatment. He and a group of doctors examined Charlie last week and gave their expert opinions to the judge.
Questions remain about whether Charlie could have benefited from the experimental treatment, had it not been delayed for months during the legal battle between Charlie’s parents and the hospital. The court battle began in March.
Their last request to take Charlie home to die also was denied.
“We promised Charlie every day we would take him home. It seems really upsetting, after everything we’ve been through, to deny us this,” his mother said.
The hospital opposes the parents’ request. Its lawyers argued that Charlie needs to stay at the hospital or go to a hospice facility until he dies. Doctors claimed his ventilator will not fit through the door of his parents’ home, and he could suffer a painful death.
Despite all of his problems, Charlie’s parents – and millions like them – believe that Charlie is a valuable, living human being who should be given a chance to live.
Leading pro-life advocates helped Charlie’s parents fight for his life.
Charlie’s parents brought Terri Schiavo’s brother Bobby Schindler to London to help them fight for care for their son. Schindler spoke with LifeNews exclusively about their invitation.
Schindler told LifeNews: “We are here by invitation from the family to come alongside them as they struggle to save their son, Charlie. The critical issue here is not a political one, but the simple notion that families know what is best for their loved ones.”
“Charlie’s situation is very reminiscent of my family’s battle to save my sister, Terri. Hopefully being here can help his parents, Connie and Charlie, deal with the day-to-day emotional roller coaster, as they fight for their son’s right to live,” Schindler added.