The Vatican has opened an investigation into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old girl who vanished in Rome in 1983 while on her way home from a flute lesson. According to the Telegraph, Orlandi was a Vatican citizen and her father was an employee of the Vatican, but this is the first time that the Holy See is officially looking into her case.
The investigation was prompted by a mysterious tip off to Orlandi’s family, suggesting that her body was been buried in a 19th century tomb in the Vatican’s Teutonic cemetery, which is reserved for German, Austrian, Dutch and Flemish Catholics. Above the tomb in question is a marble statue of an angel, who is pointing to the ground. An anonymous letter sent to Orlandi’s family urged them to “look where the angel is pointing.”
According to the Guardian, the family was encouraged to ask the Vatican to open the tomb after Pope Francis announced that he would unseal the archives of the controversial WWII-era Pope Pius XII.
“Seeing as the pope decided to open the Vatican archives for the pontificate of Pius XII in 2020, we made an appeal to the pontiff,” said Laura Sgrò, the family’s lawyer. Per the Telegraph, Sgrò also said she had since received confirmation from the Vatican that an “investigation is already in an operative phase.”
In the more than three decades since Orlandi’s disappearance, theories about what might have happened to her have abounded. Some believe she was kidnapped by an organized crime gang to pressure the Vatican to repay a loan, while others say she was abducted to force the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981. But Orlandi has never been found, and her family has expressed frustration over what they see as the Vatican’s lack of transparency.
“After 35 years without cooperation,” Orlandi’s brother, Pietro, told the Guardian, “the start of an investigation is an important breakthrough.”