Vatican: Investigation into the Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi to Be Reopened

January 12, 2023

The Vatican promoter of justice, Alessandro Diddi, has decided to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi. In a brief statement published on Vatican News, the director of the Holy See's Press Office, Matteo Bruni, said the decision to reopen the investigation was made in part in response to several requests made by Orlandi's family.

Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of Ercole Orlandi, envoy of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household and citizen of Vatican City State, was 15 years old when she disappeared on her way to a music lesson in Rome on June 22, 1983. The case had been closed for almost 3 years.

In April 2020, a Vatican judge officially closed the case, which had been reopened the previous year after members of Orlandi's family received a tip that the girl's remains could be in a Vatican cemetery.

That investigation had finally authorized the opening of two tombs in the Teutonic College cemetery, located on Vatican property; these tombs turned out to be completely empty, but, unexpectedly, the operation uncovered thousands of human bones in an as yet unknown ossuary nearby.

Examinations carried out in July 2019 on the bone fragments found during the investigation revealed that these bones were too old to be Orlandi’s remains, according to Vatican statements.

The Vatican's statement does not go into more detail about the reasons for the reopening, but public interest in the case was revived last fall after the release of “Vatican Girl: the Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi,” on Netflix. This documentary series first aired in October 2022. The series presents many theories about the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, none of which have been substantiated.

Two weeks after she disappeared, John Paul II, during the Angelus, asked those responsible to come forward. Shortly after, the family received phone calls from people claiming to belong to Turkish nationalist groups, saying they had kidnapped the girl as a bargaining chip for the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, the would-be assassin of John Paul II.

Ağca subsequently claimed on several occasions, most recently in 2006, that Orlandi was alive and well, possibly in a convent. This has never been confirmed.

Others believe that the Italian mafia is involved in her disappearance or that she was kidnapped on the order of a cleric to send a message to her Vatican-employed father.

In the final episode, the documentary offers the theory that the Vatican was somehow involved in the girl's disappearance, based on an interview with a childhood friend of the missing girl.

Lewis, the documentary's director, made it clear that he did not claim to have solved the mystery of Orlandi's disappearance, but said he hoped, “for the family’s sake, those last few [puzzle] pieces are found.”