The Vatican has been accused of hiding the truth about one of Italy’s most intractable mysteries – the disappearance of a teenage girl nearly 30 years ago.
One theory is that the girl’s father, a Vatican employee, had stumbled on documents that connected the Vatican’s bank with organised crime in Rome and that she was seized in an attempt to silence him.
By Nick Squires, Rome
Her kidnap in Rome by unidentified men has been the subject of scrutiny for three decades, with allegations that it was connected to blackmail and banking scandals involving the Holy See.
One theory is that the girl’s father, a Vatican employee, had stumbled on documents that connected the Vatican’s bank with organised crime in Rome and that she was seized in an attempt to silence him. The alleged mastermind of the kidnapping was Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, the leader of the Magliana gang, Rome’s most ruthless criminal band.
He was shot dead by rival gangsters in a street in central Rome in 1990 and his body interred in a crypt in the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare.
It has always been seen as highly unusual that a known mafioso should have been given the honour of being buried in a church in which popes and cardinals are interred.
There has been speculation that Miss Orlandi was murdered and her remains hidden in the tomb alongside De Pedis.
Prosecutors in Rome have for the first time explicitly pointed the finger at the Vatican, saying that senior cardinals are covering up the truth.
Giancarlo Capaldo, a senior prosecutor who is investigating the case, said he had found evidence that serving members of the Curia — the Vatican’s governing body — knew much more than they were saying about Emanuela’s disappearance.
“There are people still alive, and still inside the Vatican, who know the truth,” the prosecutor was quoted as saying by Corriere della Sera.
Pietro Orlandi, Miss Orlandi’s brother, seized on the remarks, saying it was time for the Vatican to come clean and calling on investigators to open the tomb of De Pedis to establish whether it contained his sister’s remains. “The Holy See now has a moral duty to give a response after refusing for years to collaborate with the magistracy,” he said. “Their silence is becoming embarrassing.”
The Vatican insists that it has divulged all it knew about the case. “If someone on the inside had known something, they would have said,” said Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, 78, who was number three in the Vatican Secretariat of State at the time. “We were all interested in clarifying the matter, but unfortunately we were not able to find out anything about it.”
Over the years it has been claimed that Emanuela’s kidnapping was carried out on the orders of a Catholic archbishop, Paul Marcinkus, the disgraced head of the Vatican bank, the Istituto per le Opere di Religione. The IOR was involved in the bankruptcy of Italy’s largest private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, in 1982.
Its president, Roberto Calvi, nicknamed “God’s Banker”, was found hanged beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London, with investigators unable to rule whether he had committed suicide or was murdered, possibly by the Mafia.
The Vatican has denied that Archbishop Marcinkus, who died in 2006, had anything to do with the teenager’s disappearance.