► What is the Orlandi case called?
The Orlandi case is named after Emanuela Orlandi, a 15-year-old girl who disappeared in Rome in 1983. The young woman is the daughter of an employee of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, living in the Vatican with her family, and therefore one of the few minors to hold the nationality of the smallest state in the world. When she disappeared on June 22, 1983, on leaving her music school in Rome, her relatives first believed in a runaway. But a vast investigation is very quickly triggered, due to suspicions of kidnapping. A few days after her disappearance, John Paul II himself launched a public appeal to his captors, to release her.
If Emanuela Orlandi has never been found, her fate has fed for forty years very varied hypotheses, becoming one of the recurring news items in the Italian press. According to some theses, the teenager was kidnapped by the Banda della Magliana, an Italian mafia organization, to recover a loan from the former president of the Vatican Bank (IOR), Bishop Paul Marcinkus. A loan which would have been used by the Vatican to finance the Polish anti-communist organization Solidarnosc, but which would never have been repaid.
Another theory evokes a kidnapping of the teenager to snatch the release of Mehmet Ali Agça, the Turk who had tried to assassinate John Paul II in 1981. This is how the Gray Wolves group, an ultranationalist Turkish organization, is long accused of having kidnapped the young woman, without this ever being proven. In an open letter, Mehmet Ali Agça, released in 2010, had assured in 2019 that Emanuela Orlandi was alive and that it was necessary to seek his trace in the archives of the CIA.
► What does the survey reveal in recent years?
In recent years, his body has been sought in several places: the Teutonic cemetery, within the Vatican City, where an anonymous letter causes exhumations in 2019, the Villa Girogina, in Rome, where bones are found in 2018, the Saint Apollinaire basilica, where the police reopened the tomb of a mafioso buried in the crypt in 2010 and hoped to find the remains of the young woman there. No trace of Emanuela Orlandi is found in any of these places.
For forty years, the young woman has been sought in Rome, but also in England, where some say she was sent by her captors to a boarding school in the suburbs of London, Lichtenchtein, France and Switzerland. In vain.
► Why does it reappear today?
In January, the Vatican announced, to everyone’s surprise, the reopening of the investigation before the justice of the smallest state in the world, a few weeks after the broadcast by the Netflix platform of a documentary on the case. Tuesday, April 11, the brother of Emanuela Orlandi, Pietro, who has been fighting for years to know the truth about his sister, was received for almost eight hours by Alessandro Diddi, the promoter of justice of the Vatican, equivalent of the prosecutor in the French judicial system. He says he gave her new evidence.
But it was Pietro Orlandi’s remarks in an Italian television program broadcast on the La7 channel on Tuesday, April 11, that provoked the fury of the Vatican. Emanuela’s brother says he has proof that John Paul II used to go out of the Vatican at night to abuse young girls. “I am told that Wojtyla [le nom de Jean-Paul II] used to go out in the evening with two Polish monsignors, and it was certainly not to bless houses,” says Pietro Orlandi.
He produced an audio recording in which a man, close to the mafia, claims to have been responsible for eliminating young girls who were allegedly sexually exploited by prelates of the Curia. “Pope John Paul II used to bring these [filles] in the Vatican it was an intolerable situation. At some point, the Secretary of State intervened to get rid of it and he turned to people in the prison system, ”also claims the brother of Emanuela Orlandi.
► How did the Vatican respond to such insinuations against John Paul II?
The Vatican’s response, where Pietro Orlandi’s words caused a huge shock, took place in three stages. First, on Thursday April 13, Cardinal Stanislas Dziwisz, former private secretary to the Polish pope, denounced “virulent accusations”, which boil down to “accusations that are false from start to finish, unrealistic, laughable on the verge of comedy if they were not tragic, even criminal themselves. “I can testify, without fear of denial, that from the very first moment the Holy Father took charge of the affair”, adds the Polish cardinal.
Friday, April 14, through its official media, the Vatican also denounced a “media massacre” which “wounds the hearts of millions of believers and non-believers”. “No one deserves to be slandered like this without even a shred of proof,” wrote Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Vatican’s official media. ” Proofs ? None. Clues ? Even less,” insists Andrea Tornielli. “Testimonies at least second or third hand? Not a shadow of a doubt. Only anonymous slanderous accusations. »
The Vatican also criticized Pietro Orlandi’s lawyer for delivering names from certain sources to the justice of the smallest state in the world, the latter opposing professional secrecy.
Finally, on Sunday April 16, it was Pope Francis himself who saluted, from the window of the Apostolic Palace, during the Regina Caeli, the memory of John Paul II, “targeted these days by insulting statements and unfounded”.
As for Pietro Orlandi, he defended himself from accusing John Paul II, but said only to report remarks which happened to him by a testimony transmitted to the Vatican justice. “It is certainly not for me to say whether this character told the truth or not, he wrote on Saturday April 15. (…) We never accused Wojtyla of anything, as some would have us believe. Our only intention is to do justice to my sister Emanuela and to arrive at the truth, whatever it may be. »