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Monday, April 16, 2012


Vatican City, 14 April 2012 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. today issued a note concerning news which has appeared recently in Italian media outlets about the Vatican and the Emanuela Orlandi case. Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of an employee of Vatican City State and herself a Vatican citizen, disappeared on 22 June 1983 at the age of 15. Her disappearance has given rise to much speculation over the last thirty years. Among other theories, it has been conjectured that the case was related to the assassination attempt against John Paul II in 1981, and that it involved secret services or groups active in the Roman underworld of the time. In 2008 an Italian television programme transmitted information suggesting that Emanuela Orlandi's remains may be buried in the same grave as the leader of one of those criminal gangs.

Extracts from Fr. Lombardi's note are given below.

"It should be recalled that Pope John Paul II demonstrated particular personal interest in this tragic abduction, intervening publicly on various occasions (no fewer than eight in less than a year) with appeals for the liberation of Emanuela. He also went in person to visit the family. ... This personal commitment of the Pope was naturally backed up by the commitment of his collaborators. Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, secretary of State and therefore the Pope's main collaborator, followed events personally, and made a special telephone available line for contact with the kidnappers.

"As has been stated in the past, and is still maintained by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re - then assessor of the Secretariat of State and today the main and most authoritative witness from that time - both the Secretariat of State and the Governorate did everything possible to deal with the painful situation by collaborating with the Italian authorities, who obviously had responsibility for the investigations as the abduction took place in Italy. The complete readiness to collaborate on the part of people holding positions of responsibility within the Vatican at the time is proven by the facts and the circumstances. ... All the letters and information which reached the Vatican were immediately passed on to Inspector Sica at the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican, and are presumably still held in the competent Italian judicial offices.

"Likewise in the second phase of the investigation, years later, the three rogatory letters send to the Vatican authorities by Italian investigators ... all received a response". At the request of the Italian judges numerous people were interrogated in the Vatican and their declarations sent to the authorities concerned. "The relevant files still exist and remain at the disposal of investigators. It should also be pointed out that at the time of Emanuela's abduction, the Vatican authorities granted Italian investigators of SISDE (the Italian secret service) authorisation to place the telephone line of the Orlandi family under surveillance, and gave them free access to the Vatican allowing them to go to the Orlandi home without mediation by Vatican functionaries. It is not, then, correct to accuse the Vatican of having refused to collaborate with the Italian investigative authorities".

"The main issue is that, unfortunately, no information useful for the solution of the case ... was found in the Vatican. At that time the Vatican authorities, on the basis of messages they received referring to Ali Agca - a period which effectively coincided with the investigation on the attack against the Pope - shared the prevailing opinion that the kidnapping was used by an obscure criminal organisation to send a message or to apply pressure in relation to the incarceration and interrogation of the Pope's attacker.

"There was no reason to imagine other possible motives for the kidnapping. Attributing knowledge of secrets related to the abduction, allegedly possessed by people belonging to Vatican institutions, but without giving any names, is neither a reliable nor well-founded way to proceed. At times it almost seems to be a pretext against the anguish and frustration of not being able to discover the truth.

"In conclusion, ... it has not emerged that there is anything hidden, nor that there are 'secrets' to be revealed in the Vatican. Continuing to affirm the contrary is completely unjustified".

"Finally, since the location of the grave of Enrico De Pedis in the basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Rome has given, and continues to give rise to questions and discussion, over and above any links he may have had with the Orlandi case, we reiterate that the Church has no objection to the opening of the tomb and the burial of the body elsewhere, in order to restore the serenity that is right and just for a holy place.

"To conclude, we would like to draw inspiration from John Paul II's own intense personal participation in this tragic event, and in the suffering of the family, ... a suffering unfortunately rekindled every time a new explanation of the case emerges. ... Alas, many people disappear in Italy every year, and are never heard from again despite searches and enquiries; yet the affair of this young and innocent Vatican citizen continues to come under the spotlight. This should not be a reason to attribute the Vatican with a guilt it does not have, but rather an occasion to gain greater awareness of terrible and often forgotten disappearances (especially of young people), and to make every effort to oppose all criminal activity from whatever source".

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