Vatican Assists in Investigation into Kidnapped Girl

While digging up the grave of a Roman mobster, officials found boxes of unidentified bones that many hope will solve a decades-old mystery involving the daughter of a Vatican employee who disappeared in 1983.

Emanuela Orlandi

The Associated Press is reporting that forensic police and medical experts responded to new clues in the case of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, who disappeared on June 22, 1983 shortly after attending a music lesson at school. The daughter of a lay employee of the Holy See, she was last seen getting into a dark BMW and was never heard from again.

There have been many clues and intrigues surrounding the case in the last few decades with none of them leading to the girl.

The first is said to have come shortly after the kidnapping when the Vatican is said to have received an anonymous call asking for release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who shot Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 1981, in exchange for Orlandi. There have also been numerous sightings of the adult Emanuela in Italy and Turkey. None of the leads panned out and the case remains unsolved.

New clues surfaced when the girlfriend of a deceased Roman mobster named Enrico DePedis, who was killed in 1990, told investigators that De Pedis had kidnapped Orlandi.  In 2005, the tip was corroborated by an anonymous caller who phoned into a television show about the case and said that a clue to Orlandi’s disappearance would be found in the tomb of De Pedis.

The matter came up again in 2008 when De Pedi’s ex-girlfriend told prosecutors that Orlandi had been kidnapped by Rome’s Magliana gang, allegedly on the orders of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the late U.S. prelated who headed the Vatican bank during the 1980’s banking scandal. Marcinkus claimed to be innocent of the charges, saying the allegations had “extremely doubtful value.”

Last month, Vatican authorities gave permission to open De Pedis’ tomb in the Sant’Apollinare basilica,  which is located near the Piazza Navona in Rome’s historic center.

Reverend Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican, said the inspection of De Pedis’ tomb was “certainly a positive fact” aimed at carrying out “all possible steps so the investigation could be completed.”

“The prosecutors’ office can continue to count on the full collaboration of the church authorities,” Lombardi said in comments to reporters.

During the disinterment, authorities took samples from De Pedis’ remains and found almost 200 containers of bones near De Pedis’ tomb as part of an investigation into whether or not Orlandi was buried near the mobster.

While there was some speculation that Orlandi was actually buried in the same grave as De Pedis, only one set of bones was found in his casket.

Officials say they will now carry out tests found on the bones in the ancient crypt to see if any of them belong to the missing Emanuela.

 “The hope of the family is that the remains won’t be found,” said Massimo Krogh, a lawyer for the Orlandi family. “Obviously, as long as they don’t find anything, they can hope she is still alive.”

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