Vatican reopens investigation into missing teenage girl after Netflix documentary

The teenager never returned home following her flute lesson in the center of Rome. Since then, countless theories have passed in review, in which two common threads keep recurring: the Vatican and the criminal Magliana Gang, which had a lot of power in the Italian capital in the 1970s and 1980s.

Father Orlandi was an employee of the Vatican, which made the family part of the select group of inhabitants of the mini-state. For the past forty years, the desperate family has searched in vain for their daughter and sister. Several times she appealed to the Vatican, which, according to brother Pietro, knows more regarding the disappearance.

During a meeting in 2013, Pope Francis, who had just taken office, told him that ‘Emanuela is in heaven’, although her remains have never been found. In 2019, two tombs were opened in the Vatican following a tip, but Orlandi’s body was not there.


From Netflix-Documentary Vatican Girl explores the many wild theories surrounding the disappearance, including the early idea that she was kidnapped to trade for Turkish Gray Wolves terrorist Mehmet Ali Ağca. He committed a failed assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 and was in Italian prison at the time of his disappearance.

That theory has since been replaced by a more likely scenario, for which the documentary cites a childhood friend of the victim as evidence. She testifies anonymously that Emanuela Orlandi told her regarding abuse before the disappearance, by a figure who was ‘close to the Pope’.

In that scenario, Magliana’s Gang would have been hired to carry out the disappearance. Sabrina Minardi, the then girlfriend of mafia boss Enrico De Pedis, testifies to this. Minardi says that following her abduction, the girl was kept alive for ten days in a house near Rome.

After that, according to Minardi, Orlandi would have been handed over to “a priest, or someone who dressed as a priest” near the Vatican. In 2008, the witness told the police that the client would be the American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, although she does not mention that name in the documentary. The Archbishop, who died in 2006, was involved in several major financial scandals as Secretary of the Vatican Bank (1971-1989).

Brother Pietro Orlandi calls the new research to Italian media ‘a positive development’ and hopes to make a statement. The Vatican’s decision comes a few weeks following an initiative by Italian parliamentarians. They pleaded in December for a commission of inquiry into the Orlandi case, in connection with two other unsolved disappearances of young women around the same time.

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