As the parents of Charlie Gard end their legal battle to get their son an experimental medical treatment, Pope Francis has summoned people of good will to pray for the child and his parents in their painful ordeal.
“Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering,” said papal spokesman Greg Burke in a statement Monday. “The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”
Chris Gard, the father of the critically ill Charlie Gard, said Monday that the 11-month-old infant will not see his first birthday in less than two weeks.
In an emotional statement outside London’s High Court on Monday, Mr. Gard said that too much time had passed in court hearings as the couple struggled to obtain permission to send their child to the United States for experimental treatment.
Chris Gard said it was time to let Charlie go and “be with the angels.”
This was not the first time the Pope personally intervened in the now celebrated case of the 11-month-old British boy afflicted with a debilitating genetic condition.
In early July, Pope Francis reversed the judgment of his newly appointed head of the Academy for Life, suggesting that Charlie’s parents should be allowed to do everything possible to treat their son.
“The Holy Father follows with affection and commotion the situation of Charlie Gard, and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a statement issued by Greg Burke. “He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”
The Pope’s words clashed with an earlier statement released by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Pope’s advisory panel on bioethical issues, which seemed to sympathize with the court ruling that barred the parents from pursuing an experimental treatment in the United States.
Not long after, the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù children’s hospital offered to treat the boy, after Charlie’s mother Connie Yates learned of the Pope’s support for her cause.
Pope Francis even offered to issue a Vatican passport to the boy in order to facilitate his transfer to the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome.
Charlie’s parents praised the Pope for elevating their son’s case against the Greater Ormond Street Hospital in London to international prominence, and helping to preserve his life.
According to one analyst, Pope Francis objected to the state usurping the role of the parents to determine their child’s best interests.
The case highlighted the disagreement between Pope Francis’s conception of “medical benefit” (based on Charlie’s real needs) and that of the UK government, which was based on Charlie’s “quality of life,” stated Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead, an expert in bioethics.
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