Emanuela Orlandi’s Mysterious Disappearance: A Twisting Investigation Unfolds
In a case that has captivated Italy for the past four decades, the Missing “Vatican Girl”, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee, has taken yet another unexpected turn. The latest development involves the Vatican and Rome prosecutors suggesting the involvement of a deceased uncle in the unsolved vanishing, leading Emanuela’s brother to dismiss these claims as “shameful.”
Since the Missing “Vatican Girl” in 1983, the case has generated numerous conspiracy theories, involving the mafia, international terrorists, and even the highest echelons of the Catholic Church. The release of Netflix’s “Vatican Girl” docuseries last year further thrust the case into the international spotlight.
Pietro Orlandi, who has dedicated his life to finding his missing sister, expressed his dismay at a press conference following the airing of a special report on Italian news channel La7. The report was based on documents from an investigative dossier that the Vatican had provided to Rome prosecutors in June, after reopening the case earlier this year.
Among the documents were correspondences between Agostino Casaroli, the former Vatican secretary of state, and a Colombian priest who had served as the spiritual guide and confessor of the Orlandi family. The documents indicated that Mario Meneguzzi, who was married to Emanuela’s maternal aunt, had allegedly sexually harassed Natalina, Emanuela’s older sister, during the time of Emanuela’s disappearance. This raised the possibility that Meneguzzi may have played a role in the missing girl’s fate.
However, the Orlandi family maintains that the claim against their uncle had been previously investigated and dismissed. Pietro Orlandi criticized the Vatican for including this information in the dossier, expressing his disappointment and labeling it a “shameful action.” He pointed out that his uncle had been far away on vacation with his family on the evening of Emanuela’s disappearance, a fact known to the Prosecutor’s Office for the past 40 years.
The Vatican responded to the documentary, expressing its shared desire to uncover the truth and urging the exploration of all investigative hypotheses. They emphasized that the priest in question had not violated the sacred sacrament of penance during his conversations with Natalina, as they had taken place both inside and outside the confessional.
Emanuela Orlandi vanished on June 22, 1983, after attending a music lesson at a school near the Sant’Apollinare Opus Dei Catholic Church in Rome. As the daughter of a prominent Vatican employee, she resided within the fortified walls of Vatican City, where her mother still resides.
On the 40th anniversary of her disappearance, Pope Francis mentioned the case in his Sunday angelus, expressing his support for the Orlandi family and all families who bear the burden of a missing loved one. This gave the family hope that the documents contained within the Vatican dossier might provide new leads in the investigation.
During the press conference, Natalina Orlandi revealed that their uncle had made unwelcome advances toward her for about a month. However, she rebuffed him and involved her then-boyfriend in the situation. She stated that they never looked back afterward, and the family maintained good relations with the uncle, his wife, and their children. Natalina firmly stated that she does not believe her uncle was involved in Emanuela’s disappearance.
Pietro Orlandi emphasized the age difference between Natalina, who was 21 at the time, and Emanuela, who was just 15. He dismissed any possibility of his uncle’s involvement as pedophilia, categorically denying it when questioned.
Laura Sgro, the attorney for the Orlandi family, expressed her hope that the Vatican prosecutor had not sent only these already-known documents to the Rome prosecutor. She highlighted that the Italian judiciary had previously dealt with this matter in the early 1980s, without reaching any conclusive results. Sgro further emphasized the need for a parliamentary commission investigation to access sealed records of the Italian secret service, a step that requires rare approval.
The family and others have linked Emanuela’s disappearance to the Band of Magliana, an organized crime gang, as its leader, Enrico de Pedis, was buried in the Opus Dei church near the location where she vanished. In 2012, his body was exhumed by Vatican permission in a failed attempt to find Emanuela’s remains.
Two subsequent searches by the Vatican, one in 2018 on the grounds of the Holy See embassy in Rome and another in 2019 involving the tomb of two German princesses on Vatican grounds, also yielded no conclusive evidence.
The Vatican Promotor of Justice, Alessandro Diddi, handed over the dossier to Rome police in June, stating that it contained investigatory leads that warranted further consideration. However, it remains unclear if the involvement of the uncle was the focus of his statement. The Rome prosecutor’s office declined to comment publicly on the case.
Pietro Orlandi passionately questioned why neither the Vatican nor the Rome authorities had pursued the people he had suggested they interview or thoroughly investigated the angles that he and the family believed had not been properly explored. He called for a parliamentary commission investigation to access the sealed records of the Italian secret service.
The mystery surrounding Emanuela Orlandi’s disappearance continues to haunt her family and the Italian public. As the investigation takes another twist, the hope of finding answers and uncovering the truth remains steadfast, as the search for the “Vatican Girl” persists.