Pope Francis Calls for ‘Severe Punishment’ for Child Abusers

After his weekly prayer in Saint Peter’s Square Sunday, Pope Francis dished out harsh words for those guilty of child abuse, after gruesome details emerged regarding the 2014 death of a six-year-old girl allegedly thrown from an eighth-storey balcony by her rapist.

Greeting members of an Italian association that combats child abuse, Francis called the abuse of minors an intolerable tragedy. “We must defend the children and we must severely punish the abusers,” he said.

On Saturday, new testimony emerged in the case of six-year-old Fortuna Loffredo who died in June 2014 after a fall from an eighth-storey balcony in Naples. Stepping forward was her 11-year-old friend, Chiara, who claims that she witnessed her mother’s boyfriend raping Fortuna on the eighth floor of the building. She also claims to have been abused by the same man on multiple occasions.

Police have charged a 44-year-old Raimondo Caputo with having thrown Fortuna to her death after raping her in a housing block in a seedy area of the city. Police said they believe he killed her so she would not talk, though investigators have also suggested that she may have resisted him and thus was thrown from the building.

Caputo was the live-in boyfriend of Chiara’s mother. The man has been in prison since last November for the abuse of Chiara’s sister.

Investigating judge Alessandro Buccino Grimaldi stated that the man “brutally murdered” the girl because she had dared to oppose his advances, adding that Caputo “did not hesitate to engage in heinous and brutal sexual acts on his [step]daughters at an early age, as well as on poor Fortuna.”

Caputo’s girlfriend, the mother of Chiara and her sister, reportedly knew of the abuse but urged her daughters to keep it to themselves. On Sunday, unknown persons threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of the woman’s apartment.

On Saturday Italian President Sergio Mattarella called for a “sweeping, swift and severe” judicial process concerning the case.

In his visit to the United States last fall, Pope Francis said that “God weeps” over the sexual abuse of children.

In Philadelphia, Francis met with five victims of sexual abuse, including three women and two men. All were adults who suffered abuse as minors, either by clergy, family members or teachers.

“Etched into my heart are the stories, the suffering and the pain of the young people sexually abused by priests,” he said. “I am overwhelmed with shame thinking that those who in their charge the tender care of these little ones violated this trust, causing them grave harm.”

“God weeps,” he said emphatically.

“The crimes and sins of the abuse of minors cannot be held in silence any longer,” the Pope said.

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