Emanuela Orlandi: Holy See’s desire for clarity

15 July 2019
The opening of the tombs in the Teutonic Cemetery inside the Vatican. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News.


The investigation at the Teutonic Cemetery inside the Vatican shows the Holy See’s closeness to the Orlandi family.

On the morning of Thursday, July 11, all those present at the opening of the two tombs in the Teutonic Cemetery inside the Vatican were surprised to discover they were empty. There were no human remains, no traces of coffins or urns.

READ: Emanuela Orlandi: the opening of the tombs inside Vatican City

As is known, the Vatican judiciary agreed to carry out this investigation upon the wishes of the family of Emanuela Orlandi, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee who mysteriously disappeared in the centre of Rome in June 1983: an anonymous tip had in fact indicated one of the old tombs of that cemetery as a possible burial place for the remains of the young woman. Two tombs were opened because the Promoter of Justice of Vatican City State, Gian Piero Milano, wanted to verify that that adjacent one, also adorned by an angelic image, contained no remains that could be attributed to the missing girl.

The decision to open both tombs, in the presence of an expert appointed by Emanuela’s family, working according to the most advanced technical standards, is a sign of particular attention and human and Christian closeness to the Orlandi family. It is certainly not – as has been said – an admission by the Vatican of a possible involvement in the concealment of a corpse.

Research has shown that in the said tomb and in the adjacent one, there were no remains of Emanuela. Therefore, the investigation had a foreseeable negative outcome. As was revealed, under the two tombs inscribed with the names of two princesses who both died in the nineteenth century, no remains of human skeletons were found, but only a large empty underground space, presumably closed in the 1960s, without tombstones, inscriptions or other burials.

The fact that the two tombs were devoid of remains has triggered new questions about the resting place of the two noblewomen who died two centuries ago. However, the attempt to shift the focus, aiming to involve the Holy See as regards the whereabouts of those remains is absolutely misleading. The investigation wasn’t about the two princesses. It was to find the remains of a 15-year-old girl who died in 1983. It is therefore worth repeating, first of all, that the investigative hypothesis taken into consideration by the magistrate concerned the possible discovery of the remains of Emanuela Orlandi. And no trace of these remains was found.

Having said this, the Vatican’s judiciary decided to continue its investigation into documents regarding the architectural works carried out in the cemetery area which took place in two phases, the last of which was in the mid-1960s with the construction of the new building of the Teutonic College. The tombs of the two princesses are right next to the supporting wall of this building, and therefore it is probable that during the digging of the foundations the remains may have been moved elsewhere. Possibly, further investigations will be carried out on this front as well.

The accuracy of the investigations and technical surveys, the decision to have DNA tests done on the eventual remains, the technical expertise with which the operations were carried out under the guidance of the Promoter of Justice and the coordination of the Vatican’s Gendarmerie Corps led by Domenico Giani, clearly demonstrate the will of the Holy See to take the family’s request seriously. This desire was implemented despite the fact that the request stemmed from an anonymous tip, and it has been impossible for the Vatican judiciary to verify its reliability.

With thanks to Vatican News and Andrea Tornielli, where this article originally appeared.


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