By Philip Pullella
Pope Francis has called for "severe punishment" for paedophiles after new details emerged in Italy of the 2014 death of a six-year-old girl who is alleged to have been thrown from an eighth-storey balcony by her abuser.
"This is a tragedy. We should not tolerate the abuse of minors," Francis said, departing from prepared remarks at his weekly Sunday message and blessing to tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square.
"We must protect minors and severely punish abusers," he said.
Though the Catholic Church itself has been rocked by its own abuse scandals, he did not mention them on Sunday as he has in the past.
Italians have been shocked as details emerged in the case of six-year-old Fortuna, who died in June 2014 after a fall from an eighth-storey balcony in Naples.
After re-opening the case, police charged a 43-year-old man with having thrown the girl to her death in a housing block in a rough area of the city after raping her.
Police said they suspected he killed her so she would not talk.
The man, also accused of molesting other children, is now in prison in Rome and has denied the charges.
On Saturday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella called for an "ample, rapid and severe" judicial process concerning the case, which has dominated newspapers' front pages for days.