Pope Francis renewed his appeal for little Alfie this evening, saying in a tweet that the “suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

The Holy Father, who met the father of Alfie last week in Rome, said he was “moved by the prayers and immense solidarity” shown for the toddler who is at the center of court battles between hospital authorities and his parents to keep him alive.

The tweet came after a day of high drama on Monday — the date the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool had set to switch off his life support, against the wishes of his parents Thomas Evans and Kate James.

That was meant to happen at noon, but was extended to 2.30pm, and then delayed further when Italy’s foreign and interior ministers announced they had granted little Alfie Italian citizenship.

“In this way, the Italian government hopes that being an Italian citizen allows the child to be immediately transferred to Italy,” said Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and Interior Minister Marco Minniti.

According to Il Foglio newspaper, their announcement was followed by strong words from Italy’s ambassador to Britain, Raffaele Trombetta, who called on Alder Hey to “stop the procedure of suspension of ventilation to Alfie Evans or charges for the homicide of an Italian citizen will be filed.”

The Christian Legal Centre, which represents Alfie’s parents, said Trombetta had “urgently contacted the court with a request for the Italian government to be allowed to intervene in the case and seek the return of their citizen Alfie Evans to Italy.”

Thomas Evans posted on Facebook: “Alfie has been granted Italian citizenship. We await for the [Italian] foreign minister to call Boris Johnson.” Speaking outside the hospital, he said: “I’m stood here now and Alfie is still here. Why? Because I’m still fighting for him, I’m still fighting and so is Alfie.”

A conference call then took place between the family’s legal team, Justice Anthony Hayden who since February has been ruling to end Alfie’s life against his parents’ wishes, Ambassador Trombetta, Tom and Kate, and the hospital’s administration. The meeting was to decide if Alfie could leave for Italy, now that he is an Italian citizen.

The Register has learned from a source close to the family that Justice Hayden “rejected every argument” and “completely disregarded everything and everyone.” The source said Hayden also rejected an appeal to give Alfie’s parents and legal team seven days to seek alternatives, adding his decisions were “outrageous.”

Hayden ordered Alfie’s ventilator to be removed at 9.30pm local time but the family urgently appealed again to the Court of Appeal.

In the early hours of this morning, Mariella Enoc, president of the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù children’s hospital in Rome, arrived at the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool with instructions from the Pope to do “everything possible” to save the life of the toddler. Enoc was accompanied by a medical specialist in anaesthesia and resuscitations and stayed in direct contact with the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Although she came as an envoy of the Holy Father, Enoc was not allowed to see Alfie nor meet hospital chiefs. She said she spoke with the parents, saying that “if you want the good of someone, there can be no imposition of ideological opposition on individual battles.”

Also on Monday, a group of protesters supporting Alfie tried to storm the hospital before police officers formed a line to block the entrance.

About 200 people turned up to protest outside the hospital after judges at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) refused today to intervene in the case.

As well as the Bambino Gesù, the Giannina Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa has also offered help to Alfie, saying it would fly him to the Italian city and care for him for free.

UPDATE April 23, 10.42pm

From Alfie’s Italian lawyers, Giuristi per la Vita: “The defence lawyers of Alfie Evans have just filed an urgent appeal with the Italian Consulate in London, which acts as a judge for the guardianship of Italian minors abroad  The ambassador has already been notified through our friends of the Steadfast Onlus association who deal with diplomatic relations and have facilitated the acquisition of Italian citizenship for Alfie. We await that the aforementioned judge for the guardianship takes urgent precautionary measures to issue the passports and orders the immediate repatriation of the minor to Rome (Bambin Gesù) or Genoa (Gaslini), Italy, by ambulance / air transport. We believe that any activity of detachment of vital supports will constitute from now on a formal offense against an Italian citizen abroad, punishable in any form.”

10.57pm

From a source close to the family: “Twenty minutes ago, they started trying to kill him and the Italian consul is attempting to intevene.”

11.23pm

SteadfastOnlus, part of the LifeAid project and in direct contact with the family, reports that despite having his ventilator removed, Alfie “has been breathing alone for half an hour. There are 30 policemen outside his room.”

Video taken of Alfie today, showing him to be responsive and alert (via LifeSiteNews):