LEICESTER, United Kingdom – During Friday’s burial of baby Indi Gregory, Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham asked the population to “please continue to keep them in your thoughts, and especially your prayers.”
The 8-month-old baby girl died in a hospice Nov. 27 after her life support was withdrawn the day before.
She had suffered brain damage as the result of a rare condition known as mitochondrial disease. Her doctors said her life support should be removed to allow her to die at a hospital or hospice.
Her parents, Dean Gregory and Claire Staniforth, had tried to get her to Italy, where the papally-sponsored Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome had offered to continue her treatment.
In his funeral homily, McKinney quoted the words of Jesus: “Let the children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these little children that the Kingdom of God belongs.”
The bishop said this is a strong and powerful message from Jesus.
“He’s saying that we can all learn so much from children. How? Because children are naturally joyful, open and trusting, they have not yet become closed in and weighed down by the worries of the world,” McKinney said.
“But Jesus is also saying that these are precisely the necessary qualities needed so as to share in his Kingdom of Heaven: Openness to God in our lives, trust in his love for each of us, and joy and hope in the way we live our lives and care for others. So, as adults, we have much to learn from children,” he continued.
“Therefore, we believe that Jesus has a very special place prepared in heaven for all children, and especially for those who, like baby Indi, die so young,” McKinney said, adding that’s why Dean and Claire arranged for baby Indi to be baptized.
“They wanted her to know God’s love and to be able to be close to Jesus forever, and I know this truth gives them great comfort. So, they in turn were able to comfort their second youngest child, Vienna, who is only 6, by explaining to her that baby Indi was now in a very special place called Heaven where she continues to be loved and cared for by Jesus and all his angels and saints,” he said.
Indi’s father gave a tribute for his daughter, calling her a “beautiful warrior.”
“I honestly and truly feel, deep in my heart, that Indi was not only beautiful, but strong and unique,” Dean said.
“I just knew, from the start, she was very special. Nonetheless, I could never have imagined the sort of journey we and lndi would have had to go through to fight for her life. She didn’t only have to battle against her health problems, she had to battle against a system that makes it almost impossible to win. Yet, it was her weakest point, her health problems, that distinguished lndi as a true warrior,” he continued.
The girl’s father mentioned her many struggles, and spoke about the medical system in the country that often went against the will of parents.
“lndi’s determination to fight for a chance at life, really inspired me. The strength she had for an eight-month-old child was truly incredible. And this is one of the reasons I would have done anything for lndi to have had that chance to live which was denied her,” Dean said, adding his daughter had to fight to live from day one of her life.
“I was even willing to go down into the pits of hell to fight and to protect lndi. In a way I did, because the court system itself felt like being in hell to me,” he said.
However, Dean said that lndi was an eight-month-old baby that had the power to touch millions of peoples’ hearts around the world, inspiring love, especially in Italy.
“In fact, I’m sure lndi is as proud as I am for the amazing support and love shown by the Italian Government, the Italian Prime Minister and the Italian people. I strongly believe they were lndi’s guardian angels during the legal battle to save her,” he said.
The Mass was attended by a delegation from the Italian government, including Minister of Families Eugenia Roccella and Minister of Disabilities Alessandra Locatelli.
The service also included a statement from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
“His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of little Indi Gregory, and he sends condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to her parents, Dean and Claire, and to all who mourn the loss of this precious child of God,” the cardinal wrote.
“Entrusting Indi into the tender and loving hands of our Heavenly Father, His Holiness joins those gathered for her funeral in thanking Almighty God for the gift of her all-too-short life. He likewise prays that the Lord Jesus, who said to his disciples, ‘Let the little children come to me… for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’ (Matthew 19:14), will grant abiding comfort, strength and peace to you all,” Parolin said.
In his homily, McKinney said Indi’s short life serves to remind people of how precious life is.
“She reminds us of how precious is the dignity of every human being; that whether a baby in the womb, someone very young like Indi, or elderly, healthy or sick, big or small, each person is of infinite value and is to be respected as such,” the Nottingham bishop said.
“That’s a wonderful legacy of Indi’s short life on earth.”