VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is calling for courageous defense of children to protect them from abuse.
Francis made no mention of the church scandals in many countries in which clergy abused children and hierarchy covered up for them. At a Mass he celebrated Sunday in crowded St. Peter's Square, Francis said abuse victims are in his prayers.
He stressed that all must work with courage so that children, who are among the most vulnerable people, be always defended and protected.
Ignoring sometimes heavy rain, Francis toured the square in a popemobile, but left the vehicle to embrace disabled adults and children along his route.
In a surprise, he ventured beyond the Vatican's confines, riding the popemobile down a Rome boulevard to greet thousands of cheering faithful who couldn't fit in the square.
A St. Louis man convicted of brutally beating to death his 2-year-old son will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The reasons may be unknown--an alcohol fueled rage or bipolar disorder--but a jury has made sure 32 Aaron Lucy of south city will never hurt another child.
He was found guilty of first-degree murder and four felony counts of child abuse, evidence tampering and armed criminal action in the death of his son, Kyle Lucy. He has no chance for parole.
The boy's mother,30-year-old Amanda Newman, told the St Louis Post Dispatch she was satisfied with the life sentence because she believes it will keep Lucy away from their daughter, Abby, who is now 7.
Prosecutors said Lucy beat Kyle to death the day after Christmas 2010 while the family was at a holiday play.
Authorities said Lacy left bruises and scrapes on almost every part of the toddler's body and caused two skull fractures and a fatal brain injury. Blood was found throughout the apartment, including on the back of a picture frame, a broken drawer an overturned television that had been thrown across the floor.
Lucy's mother argued he should be in a mental hospital rather than prison.
The charges come more than two years after an anonymous call to a state hotline sent authorities to the O'Fallon home of Victoria and Terry Smith. Their son and his siblings were removed from their parents care, but later returned, according to court documents.
St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar did not immediately respond to a message asking for information about the delay in filing charges and why the children were later returned to the home.
The Smiths, who have since moved to Elsberry, do not have a listed phone number or an attorney on record. Arrest warrants have been issued, and Lohmar said both are expected to turn themselves in.
Lohmar said authorities received the tip in December 2010, when the boy was 6. When police, paramedics and a case worker went to the home, the child's grandmother showed them to the basement, where the child was in a 3-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide and 6-foot-long crib covered with a plywood top and held together with bungee cords, tension straps and zip ties, he said.
The boy's parents were shopping at the time, and his grandmother was watching him and his five siblings, ages 11 months to 8 years.
The child was naked, sitting in urine and feces, Lohmar said. According to court documents, the siblings told police their brother was often kept in the cage and they fed him hot dogs and chicken nuggets through the bars.
"We certainly understand that any parent is going to have stressful times, especially parents with severely developmentally disabled children," Lohmar said. "But our view is that this was a completely inappropriate way to handle this particular situation."
When the Smiths came home, they told investigators that they fashioned the cage for the boy's protection - it was the only way to keep him from hurting himself when left alone, Lohmar said. They said they did their best to keep the cage clean and kept him naked so that he wouldn't accidentally hang himself with clothing.