ROME—Nearly 40 years after a teenage girl whose father worked at the Vatican disappeared from an Opus Dei church in the Italian capital, her family may finally have some answers.
This week, Italian lawmakers filed for a parliamentary inquiry into the 1983 disappearance of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, whose conspiracy-theorized case was recently the subject of the Netflix documentary “Vatican Girl.” The four-part series brought renewed attention to the case, with Netflix using the original missing person posters plastered in Rome to advertise the documentary.
The petition also calls for an investigation into the case of another missing girl, 15-year-old Mirella Gregori, who disappeared in Rome a month before Orlandi, and the murder of 21-year-old Simonetta Cesaroni, who was beaten to death in Rome in 1990 under suspicion conditions. All three are Italy’s most talked about colds.
A similar petition will also be submitted to Italy’s Senate, which could easily pass if Italy’s new right-wing government does not cancel it.
Orlandi’s disappearance has been linked to everything from the mob to the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. There were confessions, counseling and a plethora of sightings, including one at a monastery in the UK that turned out to be yet another false lead.
Parliamentary inquiries, which are often authorized to investigate organized crime and financial crimes, are common in Italy. It is unclear whether this will pass both houses of parliament, but if it does, it will send a clear message to the Vatican that suspicions remain about the matter. As the Netflix series has pointed out, as have many other documentaries over the past four decades, all roads in the case seem to lead right to the Holy See.
Three popes, in fact, worked to appease the Orlanti family, whose matriarch still lives in the Vatican apartment within the fortified walls where the family lived when Orlanti disappeared. They have exhumed graves, discovered records and prayed with the family.
But the parliamentary inquiry would ask them to open the records, including phone records and people’s movements, in the days and months after Orlandi disappeared. Several people called a hotline with tips, but the Orlanti family says Vatican men answered calls to their private apartment in the following days.
The most oft-repeated plot in the case is that Orlandi’s father knew something he shouldn’t and his daughter was taken as a warning. Other conspiracies include the theory that a local criminal gang, which had invested its money in the Vatican Bank, took it as leverage to get its money back, or that it was connected to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland in day he disappeared, where he addressed a crowd of Solidarity followers (themselves rumored to have been financed by Vatican money with mafia ties).
Opposition senator Carlo Calenda told a news conference on Tuesday that the investigation would show Italy’s strength against the powerful Holy See. “We must restore the principle that the Italian state has great respect for the Vatican and its role as a sovereign state for its spiritual teaching, but in no way submits to the Vatican state,” he said. “Italy is a secular democracy based on popular sovereignty and interacts equally with the Vatican State.”
The Vatican, as its own sovereign nation, would not be bound to comply with any subpoenas that might result from an inquiry. But Pietro Orlanti, the missing girl’s brother who has made it his life’s work to keep her case alive in the media, said the pressure “may finally break the wall of silence”.