Vatican embassy bones revive 1983 manhunt

Vatican embassy bones revive 1983 manhunt

The Vatican says human bones were found during renovation work near its Italian embassy, reviving speculation about an enduring Catholic church mystery involving the disappearance of the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican bank boss in 1983.

The Holy See said Rome’s chief prosecutor had called in forensic investigators to determine the victim’s age, gender and year of death.

“The Vatican gendarmerie promptly intervened on the spot, informing the superiors at the Holy See who immediately informed the Italian authorities,” the Vatican said online.

The church said the bones were found during work near its Rome embassy in the exclusive Parioli area.

Emanuela Orlandi (pictured) disappeared after leaving her family’s Vatican City apartment for a music lesson in Rome. Her father was a prominent lay employee at the Institute for the Works of Religion, which is widely known as the Vatican bank.

But the remains could also be those of Mirella Gregori, who disappeared in Rome 40 days before Orlandi and was also aged 15, Italy’s media reported.

Gregori answered the intercom at her family’s apartment and told her parents it was a school friend and that she was going out to speak to him. The girl never returned.

Detectives say the cases could be connected.

The Orlandi case has been linked to an attempt to force the release from prison of Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981. It has also been linked to a Vatican bank scandal and organised crime.

In 2012, forensic police exhumed the body of gangster Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis from the crypt of a Roman basilica in an unsuccessful attempt to find Orlandi’s remains as well. 

An Italian journalist published a document last year stolen from a Vatican cabinet suggesting the church authorities had been involved in Orlandi’s disappearance. The Vatican said the document was a fake.

The document was reportedly written by a cardinal and listed supposed expenses for Orlandi’s upkeep after she disappeared.

A deceased Vatican exorcist, Reverend Gabriele Amorth, told CNN he suspected the girl was abducted for sexual reasons. 

“The investigation should be carried out inside the Vatican and not outside,” he told the broadcaster.

In 2005, an anonymous call to an Italian detective said Orlandi was kidnapped for Rome’s former chief cardinal, Ugo Poletti, and that “the secret to the mystery lies in a tomb in St Apollinare basilica”, where mobster De Pedis was buried.

De Pedis was shot dead in Rome in 1990 and his body was moved to the basilica before 1997, it is thought as part of a secret deal for a loan made to the Vatican or to protect his tomb from being desecrated by other crime gangs. 

In 2008, De Pedis’ mistress said he had been involved in Orlandi’s kidnapping and that the girl was buried under the foundations of a house outside Rome but investigators said the concrete was poured in 1982.


Emanuela Orlandi’s disappearance continues to interest Italians. Picture credit: YouTube 

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