Pope denounces paedophilia as new details of six-year-old girl’s death emerge in Italy

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‘We must protect our minors and severely punish abusers’

By Alexandra Sims

Pope Francis delivers his blessing during the Regina Coeli prayer from his studio's window overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican

Pope Francis delivers his blessing during the Regina Coeli prayer from his studio’s window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican

Pope Francis has used his weekly Sunday message to denounce paedophilia, following the emergence of new details surrounding the alleged rape and murder of an Italian girl in 2014.

“This is a tragedy. We should not tolerate the abuse of minors,” said Pope Francis, in his message and blessing to St Peter’s Square.

“We must protect our minors and severely punish abusers.”

The Pope’s comments followed new revelations in the case of a six-year-old girl who died in June 2014, after allegedly being thrown from an eighth-story balcony in Naples.

A 43-year-old man is being held in a prison in Rome charged with throwing the girl from a housing block in a deprived area of the city after raping her, following a re-opening of the case. He has denied the charges.

The case has dominated Italian media coverage in recent days and on Saturday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella called for an “ample, rapid and severe” judicial process during the case.

For decades, the Catholic Church has been shaken by its own abuse scandals and has been reluctant to admit culpability in the widespread abuse by priests in its orders.

Scandals have been discovered around the world and tens of millions of dollars have been paid in compensation.

The film Spotlight, which won the 2016 Oscar for Best Picture, focuses on the investigation by journalists at the Boston Globe in 2002, which exposed a cover up of sexual abuse by local church authorities.

The Pope has vowed a “zero tolerance” for abusers in the Church, however victims groups have accused him of not doing enough.

In March, Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s treasurer and the highest-ranking official called the violation of more than 50 children by one priest a subject that “wasn’t of much interest” to him, while testifying in an Australian inquiry into historic child abuse within the clergy.

The Australian Cardinal was a priest in the city of Ballarat in the early 1970s and was questioned on his knowledge of widespread sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy in the area over a period of decades.

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