Vatican Reopens Disappearance Investigation

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City [Public Domain Pictures].

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City [Public Domain Pictures].

The Vatican will launch an internal investigation into the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, according to the Guardian. The decision, announced on April 10, reopens one of the most mysterious cases in recent Italian history.

Laura Sgrò, the Orlandi family’s lawyer, commented to the Guardian, “The time has finally come to reach the truth and give justice to this girl after decades of silence.”

Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican policeman, disappeared on June 22, 1983, the Local reports. Bystanders witnessed her leaving a music class, and the teenager was never seen again.

The case has been a matter of great contention and speculation over the years. Italian police hold many different theories about Emanuela’s disappearance: an organized crime group may have kidnapped her in an attempt to extract an unpaid loan from the Vatican; or her disappearance may have been part of the effort to engineer the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, the would-be Turkish assassin of Pope John Paul II, according to the Local.

One official floated an even more disturbing theory. As reported by the Daily Caller, the Vatican’s chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth commented, “This was a crime with a sexual motive… The [trafficking] network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle.”

Complicating the case further, a second 15-year-old student, Mirella Gregori, disappeared exactly 40 days before the last day Emanuela was seen. Although the two missing girls did not know each other, officials have never ruled out the possibility that the two cases are connected, according to the Local.

About a month before the Vatican’s announcement that it was reopening the investigation, the case saw its first breakthrough in months. On the grounds of the Vatican, a statue of an angel holding a sheet inscribed with the epitaph, “Rest in Peace,” lies next to a tomb. According to the Guardian, the decision to open the tomb in search of Emanuela’s remains followed Laura Sgrò’s reception of an anonymous tip, which told her to “look where the angel is pointing.”

The Guardian reports that Emanuela’s brother, Pietro, commented to the press, “After 35 years without cooperation, the start of an investigation is an important breakthrough.”

Many times over the years, what looked like new progress in the case has led to nothing. In October 2018, human remains were found at a site in Rome owned by the Vatican; the remains were thought to be connected to either Mirella or Emanuela’s disappearances, the Local reports.

After further investigation officials determined that the remains belonged to a man who died between the years AD 90 and AD 230, according to the Guardian. The Orlandi and Gregori families continue to wait for a substantial breakthrough.