Following the news that Alfie Evans — the 23-month-old terminally ill British boy — died Saturday just five days after being taken off life support, Pope Francis and people across the world are mourning the loss of the toddler.
“Our baby boy grew his wings tonight at 2:30 am,” wrote his mother Kate James, 20, on Facebook early Saturday. “We are heartbroken. Thank you everyone for all your support 💙.”
His father, 21-year-old Thomas Evans, also wrote on Facebook, “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30 😥😢😥😢😥 absolutely heartbroken💔😭 I LOVE YOU MY GUY💙💙💙👨👦👨👦.”
After hearing the devastating news, social media users offered their love and prayers to the young boy.
“I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie. Today I pray especially for his parents, as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace,” wrote Pope Francis, who had previously voiced his support for Alfie.
“So sorry Alfie didn’t get a chance. Heartbroken for you & praying ” wrote one social media user.
While mourning the loss of the toddler’s life, some social media users spoke out against the British government, which ultimately sided against the toddler’s parents — who were fighting to keep their ailing toddler on life support — and the doctors, who said there was no hope for the boy, according to the Washington Post.
Alfie continued to live despite being in a “semi-vegetative state” as a result of a mystery degenerative neurological condition, and the BBC reported that doctors argued that keeping Alfie on a ventilator would be “futile,” “unkind and inhumane.” Most recently, the European Court of Human Rights rejected the parents’ request to intervene and keep doctors at the Liverpool hospital from taking Alfie off of the assistance.
The human rights court’s decision upheld that of Britain’s Supreme Court, in which justices said it would be pointless to take Alfie to Rome for treatment.
Wrote one social media user, “This should concern everyone who want[s] to give power to the government. Poor sweet angel. He deserved a chance to receive treatment.”
“This is truly heartbreaking. Insurance companies, pharma and governments have ruined health care across the world,” wrote another.
- Want to keep up on the latest from PEOPLE? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get our best stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox.
The hospital where Alfie had been since December 2016 also expressed their “heartfelt sympathy and condolences” to Alfie’s family following the toddler’s death.
“All of us feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom and his whole family and our thoughts are with them. This has been a devastating journey for them and we would ask that their privacy and the privacy of staff at Alder Hey is respected,” Alder Hey Hospital wrote in a statement.
The hospital also announced a makeshift memorial for the boy.
“We feel sure people will wish to place tributes to Alfie along with messages of support for Kate and Tom,” Alder Hey Hospital said. “To ensure there is sufficient space for these and to ensure the safety of all those who wish to visit, we have secured a suitable place in Springfield Park situated next to Alder Hey Hospital. This is on the advice of Merseyside Police.”
According to the Just Giving fundraising page, the toddler’s family wrote that their boy was born “healthy and on time” in May 2016. However, the parents soon noticed Alfie was not accomplishing common milestones like lifting his head, maintaining eye contact and eating with his hands. Doctors initially believed the boy was simply a “late developer,” but became concerned when he began experiencing spasms and developed an infection.
Earlier this year, Takesha Thomas and Lanre Haastrup lost their son, Isaiah, after a judge ruled that doctors could stop providing intensive care treatment to the boy who suffered brain damage.