Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a depositor from the Vatican, did not return home on June 22, 1983, after a music lesson in Rome. She was 15 years old at the time and lived with her family inside the Vatican. Her disappearance is one of Italy’s most persistent mysteries.
The case entered a new chapter on Tuesday, when her brother, Pietro, met with the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Alessandro Diddi, to whom Francis gave a free hand to get to the bottom of the case.
After speaking with Diddi for more than eight hours, Pietro Orlandi appeared on a television show where he played part of an audio recording of a man who Orlandi said was part of a organized crime group that the Italian press has speculated for decades to have been involved in his sister’s disappearance.
The voice of the alleged gangster says that, more than 40 years ago, the girls were brought to the Vatican to be molested and that Pope John Paul knew about it.
Orlandi then stated on the show, in his own words: “I was told that Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II’s last name) used to go out in the evening with two Polish monsignors and it was certainly not to bless houses.”
The comments caused a storm and were condemned by Vatican officials in recent days, before the Pope himself jumped into the fray in his lunchtime address to around 20,000 people in St Peter’s Square.
“With the certainty that I am interpreting the feelings of the faithful all over the world, I express a thought of gratitude towards the memory of Saint John Paul, who in these days has been the object of offensive and unfounded insinuations,” said Pope Francis.
The crowd, mostly Italian, burst into applause.
Diddi summoned Pietro Orlandi’s lawyer, Laura Sgro, on Saturday. The Vatican said it invoked attorney-client privilege. Sgro told Reuters on Sunday that John Paul was not addressed in her conversation with Diddi, adding in a text message: “I have never questioned the holiness of John Paul II.”
Orlandi told Reuters by phone on Sunday that it was “correct that Pope Francis defended Pope John Paul II.” Orlandi added that, during the televised appearance, he “repeated what others said. I certainly didn’t see it myself.”
Vatican editorial director Andrea Tornielli previously condemned Orlandi’s comments as a “sordid” defamation of the sovereign pontiff, who led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005 and was declared a saint in 2014.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul XVI’s secretary throughout his leadership, described Orlandi’s actions as “ignoble, unrealistic, laughable if they were not tragic, even criminal.”
Over the past four decades, graves have been opened, bones have been exhumed from forgotten graves, and conspiracy theories have abounded in an attempt to determine what happened to Emanuela Orlandi. The case, which has been the subject of on-and-off investigations in Italy and the Vatican, attracted renewed worldwide attention after the release late last year of the Netflix series “Vatican Girl.” She would have turned 55 years ago.
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