LONDON, April 28 (Reuters) - Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old British toddler whose grave illness drew international attention, died early on Saturday, his family said.
Alfie had a rare, degenerative disease and had been in a semi-vegetative state for more than a year.
After a series of court cases, doctors at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool removed his life support on Monday, against his parents' wishes.
He confounded expectations by continuing to breathe unaided for days, but died in the early hours of Saturday, his parents said.
"My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30 absolutely heartbroken," the boy's father Tom Evans wrote on Facebook.
"Our baby boy grew his wings tonight ... Thank you everyone for all your support," his mother Kate James wrote.
Medical experts in Britain had agreed that more treatment for Alfie would be futile, but his parents wanted to take him to Rome, where the Vatican's Bambino Gesu hospital had offered to care for him.
A British court rejected an appeal by the parents on Wednesday to take their son to Italy.
The case stirred strong feelings over whether judges, doctors or parents have the right to decide on a child's life. Alfie's parents were supported by Pope Francis and Poland's President Andrzej Duda.
"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," the pope tweeted on Saturday.
(Reporting by James Davey, with additional reporting by Gavin Jones in Rome Editing by Andrew Heavens/Mark Heinrich)