This week marks the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of a young girl, and on Sunday, Pope Francis offered prayers for the girl’s family. Her brother applauded this intervention as a sign that the Vatican was now dealing seriously with its most famous cold case.
On June 22, 1983, Emanuela Orlandi, then 15 years old and the daughter of an official at the Vatican, was observed leaving a music class in Rome for the last time.
Decades later, many are still trying to figure out what happened to her, with some suggesting that mobsters, the secret services, or even a Vatican conspiracy were to blame for her disappearance. These speculations became the inspiration for a popular series on Netflix.
Pope Francis stated that he wished to use the anniversary “to once again express my closeness to the family, most especially her mother, and assure them of my prayers.” He made this statement after the weekly Angelus prayer that is held at the Vatican.
“I extend my remembrance to all of the families who bear the pain of a loved one who has disappeared,” he continued. “I will always remember you.”
Orlandi’s family has been fighting for years to uncover the truth, and in January, the head prosecutor of the Vatican started a file on the investigation into the matter.
On the occasion of the anniversary on Thursday, the Vatican disclosed that he had sent his findings to the Rome prosecutor’s office, which is carrying out its own investigation.
The Vatican issued a statement in which it acknowledged the existence of “some lines of inquiry worthy of further investigation,” but it did not provide any further information.
However, it claimed that it had evidence gathered from Vatican institutions as well as testimony from high-ranking officials who were present at the event.
Over the course of several decades, the Vatican has been accused of impeding the progress of several investigations; nevertheless, Orlandi’s brother Pietro voiced optimism on Sunday that there may at last be some positive developments.
He told reporters, “The Emanuela Orlandi taboo has finally been broken,” after conducting a sit-in near the Vatican and then going to listen to the pope speak after the sit-in was over.
The very act of praying is an indication that there is hope of getting closer to the truth.
According to statements made by Pietro Orlandi to AFP, “these words are already a big step that we had been asking for for years and years and it had never happened.”
Nevertheless, he continued by saying, “We expect acts after these words.”
In March, the lower house of the Italian parliament reached a consensus to establish a committee to examine the disappearances of both Orlandi and another adolescent from the Vatican named Mirella Gregori, who went missing a few weeks earlier.
However, there is still debate going on about it in the Senate, which is the higher house.