'I had Indi baptized to protect her,' says father of British girl at her funeral

Indi Gregory, an 8-month-old child suffering from a degenerative disease who is at the center of a legal battle in the U.K. to keep her on life support, is pictured Sept. 22, 2023, with her parents, Claire Staniforth and Dean Gregory, on the day of her baptism. Indi, who died Nov. 13 because her life support was not extended, had a Catholic funeral Dec. 1 in the British Nottingham Cathedral. (OSV News photo/courtesy Indi Gregory family via Christian Concern)

(OSV News) -- Indi Gregory, a British girl who died Nov. 13 because her life support was not extended, had a Catholic funeral Dec. 1 in the British Nottingham Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Patrick McKinney.

Her parents battled the British courts to have her life support extended. The father of Indi, Dean Gregory, wrote a moving tribute to his daughter on the day of her funeral, where her casket arrived in a white horse-drawn carriage.

He said his daughter was a "beautiful warrior."

Pope Francis sent a message to Bishop McKinney, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.

"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 pope said.

"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," the message said. "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."

Bishop McKinney underlined during the funeral Mass how greatly important it was for the parents of Indi to baptize her.

Christians believe, the bishop said, "that Jesus has a very special place prepared in heaven for all children, and especially for those who, like baby Indi, die so young. 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."

The father of Indi said in his tribute that he believed God chose her "because she was strong, beautiful and special."

He said his greatest comfort "is knowing where Indi is and with whom she is with now."

"Dean and Claire are greatly comforted by this truth that Christ Jesus continues to look after Indi in heaven," Bishop McKinney emphasized during the Mass.

"I had Indi baptized to protect her and so she would go to heaven. It gives me peace to know she is in Heaven and God is taking care of her," Indi's father wrote.

"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 Indi as a true warrior," the father of Indi said in a tribute to his daughter.

Despite "seizures, 2 operations, sepsis, ecoli, including other infections, that even another child would struggle to beat," his daughter had a "determination to fight for a chance of life" and that "really inspired me," the father said, as reported by Christian Concern, an organization that supported the family throughout their battle.

"The strength she had for an 8-month-old child was incredible. And this is one of the reasons I would have done anything for Indi to have the chance to live which was denied her," he said.

The funeral Mass was attended by a delegation from the Italian government, including Eugenia Roccella, Italy's minister for the family, birth rate and equal opportunities, and Alessandra Locatelli, Italy's minister of disabilities.

Indi was granted Italian citizenship Nov. 9 with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni personally engaged in the state's wish to bring the little girl to Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome for further treatment.

Jacopo Coghe, vice president of Pro Vita e Famiglia, an Italian nongovernmental organization that helped bring the case to the public attention in Italy, also was present at the funeral. During the legal case Coghe helped generate a petition of 50,000 signatures in Italy calling on the U.K. government to allow Indi to be transferred to the Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital in Rome for specialist treatment.

"Her battle, so short but so intense, deeply touched our hearts and raised fundamental questions about the dignity of human life that are difficult to answer," Pro Vita e Famiglia said in a Dec. 1 statement.

"We know that nothing can ease the pain of losing a child," the organization said, adding that "Indi was not only your daughter, but a symbol of struggle and hope for the rights to life and healthcare, a bright light that shone intensely and continues to shine as the guiding star of our hearts."

"We want you to know that your courage, your determination and your unconditional love for Indi will never be forgotten," the Italian NGO said.

"In times of pain and fatigue, never forget to look up to Heaven, where Indi now intercedes to give you strength and hope. Always remember that you are not alone, and that Italian families are by your side," Pro Vita e Famiglia said.

Indi had been battling a rare mitochondrial disorder since she was born in February. In September, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust brought a case against the family to the High Court arguing that life support should be removed in Indi's "best interests."

"She 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 Indi. In a way I did, because the court system itself felt like being in hell to me," Indi's father said Dec. 1.

He also thanked Italy for its unwavering support. "I strongly believe they were Indi's guardian angels during the legal battle to save her," the father said of the Italian government, Bambino Gesù hospital and pro-life advocates.

"I would also like to thank all the many people involved in Indi's legal battle including my lawyers and Christian Concern. You have all been a true inspiration and I truly believe it has been a battle of good versus evil."

He said his daughter's mission on earth was to "expose evil in the world."


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