By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican’s chief prosecutor said Pope Francis has given him free rein to investigate the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old Vatican resident.
The case has fueled conspiracy theories for close to 40 years and inspired a Netflix series in 2022.
Alessandro Diddi, the Vatican prosecutor, told Corriere della Sera, an Italian newspaper, that the pope and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, have an “iron will” to shed whatever light is possible on what happened to Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, who vanished in Rome June 22, 1983.
Diddi’s interview with Corriere della Sera was published April 11, the same day Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother, met with Diddi and other Vatican prosecutors for more than eight hours.
It was their first meeting since Diddi opened a new file on the case in January at Orlandi’s request.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Orlandi said that in 40 years he had “never been questioned so thoroughly” on the case, but the meeting also gave him an opportunity to discuss “the most important things that have come out in these 40 years.”
Among them were the alleged existence of Vatican documents suggesting that Emanuela was taken to London as well as screenshots of messages allegedly exchanged between two Vatican officials in 2014 over documents about the case that have never been published.
During their meeting, he said, Orlandi gave Diddi a list of current Vatican officials he suspects have knowledge about the case; the officials include Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Leonardo Sandri, vice dean.
Orlandi said Diddi assured him that Pope Francis and Cardinal Parolin gave him the freedom to “investigate from the lowest to those highest up” in the Vatican and said that much work already has been done since reopening the case in January.
While Orlandi said he felt the “willingness to shed as much clarity as possible” on the case by the Vatican prosecutors, he said he is “certain” that there are still people in the Vatican who know what happened to his sister.
Laura Sgrò, the Orlandi family’s lawyer, told reporters April 11 that the Vatican’s investigation and Diddi’s willingness to share information with the Italian government will provide new details on the case because she is certain the Vatican has information in its archives that it has not shared.
In the Corriere interview, Diddi said he was already analyzing and still searching for more old Vatican documents that are relevant to the case.
While Emanuela disappeared in Italy and Diddi only has jurisdiction in the Vatican, “it is precisely this tiny plot of land that the Rome prosecutor’s office hasn’t been able to access,” said Sgrò.
Emanuela’s disappearance has fueled a deluge of conspiracy theories, some linked to a ransom plot for the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who shot St. John Paul II, and others claiming involvement by the mafia, which Diddi downplayed in the interview.
The prosecutor said he was given full freedom to conduct a broad investigation “without conditions of any kind” and with “a firm order to silence nothing.”