VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is reportedly reopening an investigation into the 1983 disappearance of a 15-year-old girl after a Netflix documentary and multiple lawsuits renewed pressure for action on the cold case.
Emanuela Orlandi was a citizen of the Vatican who disappeared while returning home from a flute lesson in Rome. According to the documentary, “Vatican Girl,” a lack of initial clues led her family and friends to plaster thousands of posters throughout the city. They also placed advertisements in newspapers seeking tips.
These efforts resulted in national media attention, with speculations ranging from clerical sexual abuse and coverup to mafia trafficking, and a Soviet conspiracy on behalf of the would-be Turkish assassin of John Paul II.
Italian media ANSA reported this week that Vatican Promoter of Justice Alessandro Diddi — who is alsoin another high-visibility case of Vatican financial corruption — initiated a new probe into Vatican investigations spanning 40 years. Matteo Bruni, a spokesman for the Vatican, confirmed the report, stating it was initiated “on the requests made by the family in various places.”
Despite the inference of Vatican wrongdoing, tips claiming knowledge of where the young teen could be located have all but been discredited.
In the summer of 2019, in an unprecedented action, the Vatican agreed to reopen the tomb of two German Princesses within the City State after anonymous tips claimed Orlandi’s body had been buried within them.
Orlandi’s family members were present when the tomb was unsealed, but only remnants ofwere found. A childhood friend of Orlandi claimed the teen had told her a high-ranking cleric had made inappropriate sexual advances toward her in the days prior to her disappearance. said she was afraid to come forward with her story until the Netflix documentary was released.
Another allegation of Vatican involvement came as a report through Italian media in 2017, as part of the “Vatileaks” scandal. These reports claim five pages of documents — without the usual official headers, stamps, or handwritten signatures — were obtained from the Secretariat of State.
These documents were allegedly titled, “Summary expense-report incurred by the Vatican City State for activities relating to Citizen Emanuela Orlandi (Rome 14 January 1968).” They included the names of several high-ranking officials. In 2019, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who worked at the Secretariat of State before being placed as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, claimed that he personally received the first phone call in the Vatican associated with the disappearance of Orlandi. As with several other allegations from the Archbishop-in-hiding, however, no substantial evidence has been presented.
Since the Promoter of Justice, Alessandro Diddi, is heading the new investigation from a position of ongoing financial probes, the 2017 theory associated with the Secretariat of State’s financial support of an exiled Orlandi may be the starting point.