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Pope Francis one week after Alfie Evans’ death: ‘all possible assistance’ must be given to dying

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Follow Matthew
Alfie Evans on April 23, 2018 hours before he was removed from his ventilator. Thomas Evans / Facebook screen-grab
Pope Francis giving Regina Coeli address, May 6, 2018.

May 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis spoke out on Sunday in favor of providing complete health care to dying patients, in an apparent reference to the case of Alfie Evans, a child who died in a British public hospital after being removed from a ventilator against his parents’ wishes. 

Speaking to the public before reciting the Regina Coeli prayer following Sunday Mass, Pope Francis reminded his audience that love is more than a “superficial sentiment,” but is rather something that is lived in obedience to God’s commandments.

“Above all it is important to keep in mind that the love of Christ is not a superficial sentiment. No, it is a fundamental attitude of the heart, which manifests itself in living in accordance with His will,” said Francis, noting that Jesus affirms that “if you observe my commandments you will remain in my love.”

“This love for others cannot be reserved to exceptional moments, but must become a constant part of our existence,” said Francis. “This is why we are called, for example, to care for the elderly as a precious treasure and with love, even if it creates economic problems and inconveniences, but we must care for them. This is why we must give all assistance possible to those who are ill, even those who are in the last stage of life. This is why the unborn are always welcomed; this is why, undoubtedly, life is always protected and loved from conception until its natural end.”

Pope Francis’ overall position on end-of-life treatment has been controversial.

Last November, the Pope indicated to the Pontifical Academy for Life that people may refuse life-prolonging medical treatment but failed to note, as John Paul II had done, that administration of nutrition and hydration are basic humanitarian care rather than medical treatment. Right-to-die activists in Italy credited Pope Francis’ teaching for the passage of a Euthanasia law by the Italian government last December that allowed adults to determine their end-of-life care, including the circumstances in which they can refuse treatment. 

A UK judge also cited Pope Francis’ teaching in his decision earlier this year to remove Alfie Evans from a ventilator. 

Sunday’s Regina Coeli address marks the second time in recent weeks that Pope Francis has used the event to make apparent references to the case of Alfie Evans, whose cause was taken up by the pontiff in February after Evans’ father asked him for help. 

Pope Francis repeatedly expressed support for Alfie’s cause and asked that new forms of treatment be made available to the child, who was to be removed from a ventilator by Britain’s National Health Service after months of cerebral decay due to an unknown illness, and the Vatican asked Rome’s Bambino Gesu hospital to seek to transfer Alfie to its facilities. However, the judges overseeing the case in Britain refused to allow Alfie’s transfer to Italy. Alfie died after several days after his ventilator was removed, reportedly following the reception of four unknown injections by hospital staff. 

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