Vatican to deliver evidence of 40-year-old disappearance

(CNN) — The Vatican announced Thursday that it would hand over to the Rome city prosecutor evidence of the disappearance 40 years ago of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of one of its employees.

Orlandi, the daughter of a senior Vatican official and who lived within the walls of the holy city, disappeared in the summer of 1983 on her way home from a music lesson in central Rome.

The Vatican, which over the years has come under scrutiny for its handling of the case, announced in January that it had opened a new investigation.

In Thursday’s statement, the Vatican said the office of Alessandro Diddi, the promoter of Vatican justice, “gathered all available evidence from the various institutions of the Vatican and the Holy See, while seeking evidence through conversations with officials of certain offices at the material time”.

Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother, attends a protest to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the disappearance near St. Peter’s Square. (Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

Diddi said through the Vatican press office that he had found “investigative leads that deserve further investigation.” For this reason, his unit will send “all the relevant documents of the last weeks to the prosecutor of Rome, so that he can examine them and proceed in the direction he deems most appropriate”.

It was unclear what the documents referred to, whether they were new or from the archives.

This is the first time that the Vatican has publicly handed over documents to the Italian authorities.

The statement suggested that the Vatican investigation was over, but Diddi pledged to “continue its activities in this direction in the months to come”, being “aware of the suffering felt by the disappearance of a loved one”.

Archival photograph by Emanuela Orlandi. (Courtesy of Pietro Orlandi)

Orlandi disappeared on June 22, 1983 after a class at a music school adjacent to the Catholic Church of Sant’Apollinare Opus Dei, near Piazza Navona in Rome.

His father, Ercole Orlandi, who died in 2004, worked at the Institute of Religious Works of the Holy See. His mother, Maria Orlandi, continues to live in the family apartment in the Vatican. Her brother, Pietro Orlandi, has spent his life trying to find out what happened to his sister and often accuses the Vatican of hiding information.

Pietro Orlandi called for a demonstration this Sunday in Rome in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, the last place where it is thought that the body of the young woman could be buried, who will then go to Piazza San Pietro to be present when the Pope will deliver his Sunday Angelus. Orlandi organizes annual events for the anniversary of the disappearance.

A four-episode Mark Lewis series, which premiered on Netflix last year, sparked renewed interest in the case and brought to light several high-profile conspiracy theories, including that his kidnapping was linked to Mehmet Ali Agca, who at the time was in prison for an attack against John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 1981.

The search for Orlandi’s remains has been undertaken several times over the past four decades. Human remains were found in 2018 at the Holy See’s Italian embassy in central Rome, but DNA testing was reportedly inconsistent.

A year later, the Vatican agreed to exhume the tombs of two princesses believed to be buried in the cemetery of the Pontifical Teutonic College inside Vatican City. The remains of the princesses were not found in the tomb, nor those of Orlandi, but two ossuaries were found under a secret door in the cemetery.

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