LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Pope Francis on Monday evening tweeted his support for Alfie Evans, saying, “I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

It is the fourth time Francis has spoken up on behalf of the 23-month-old boy, who suffers from an undiagnosed brain disorder.

Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool has argued that any further treatment for Alfie would be futile, and not in his best interest, and wish to remove his life support against his parents’ wishes.

Alfie’s parents – Thomas Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20 –  have fought an ongoing legal battle to allow them to take Alfie abroad for treatment.

Francis expressed his support for Alfie in an April 4 tweet. He also made an appeal for the child during his April 15 Sunday Angelus.

Most dramatically, the pope met with Alfie’s father on April 18 in Rome, speaking to him for around 20 minutes.

Evans, who is Catholic, pleaded for the pope’s help during their meeting and asked the Vatican “asylum” for his family.

During the pope’s general audience, which took place immediately after his meeting with Evans, Francis asked for prayers for Alfie, and said it is “our duty to do everything to preserve life.”

The UK Supreme Court on Friday sided with the hospital, and on Monday the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights rejected the family’s appeal as “inadmissible.”

The pope’s tweet on Monday evening is the first time Francis has formally asked that Alfie be allowed to seek new treatment.

The pontiff has directed the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to do what it can diplomatically to help Alfie come to Rome’s Bambino Gesù children’s hospital, which is owned by the Vatican.

Mariella Enoc, the president of Bambino Gesù, flew to Liverpool on Monday to see what she could do to facilitate the transfer of Alfie to Rome.

In addition, the government of Italy granted Alfie Italian citizenship and asked he be allowed to be moved to the country.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth tweeted a message on Monday which said: “Let’s offer heartfelt prayers today for little Alfie Evans – now an Italian citizen – and his courageous parents. If there is anything at all that can be done, may the Lord enable us by His love and grace to effect it.”

Egan is the first English bishop to comment individually on the case, although the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement on Wednesday affirming their “conviction that all those who are and have been taking the agonizing decisions regarding the care of Alfie Evans act with integrity and for Alfie’s good as they see it.”