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Pope Francis breaks taboo, prays for missing Vatican teen

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Pope Francis offered prayers on Sunday for the family of Emanuela Orlandi, a teenager who vanished 40 years ago, marking a significant development in the Vatican’s approach to its most notorious cold case.

The Pope’s intervention has been hailed by her brother as a sign of the Holy See’s genuine commitment to addressing the matter

Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee, was last seen leaving a music class in Rome on June 22, 1983. Over the years, numerous theories have emerged, implicating mobsters, secret services, and even a Vatican conspiracy, with these conjectures gaining further attention through a popular Netflix series.

Following his customary Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Pope Francis took the opportunity to commemorate the anniversary and express his support for the family, particularly the mother, while assuring them of his prayers. He also extended his thoughts to all families who endure the anguish of missing loved ones.

For years, the Orlandi family has relentlessly sought the truth, leading to the Vatican’s chief prosecutor initiating an investigation into the case in January. On the anniversary day, the Vatican disclosed that the findings had been passed on to the Rome prosecutor’s office, which is concurrently conducting its own inquiry.

According to a Vatican statement, there are “promising leads that warrant further investigation,” although no specific details were provided. The statement revealed that evidence had been gathered from Vatican institutions and testimonies from high-ranking officials of that period.

While the Vatican has faced accusations of impeding investigations throughout the decades, Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother, expressed hope on Sunday that progress would finally be made. Addressing reporters after leading a sit-in near the Vatican, he acknowledged that the “Emanuela Orlandi taboo has finally been broken” and regarded the Pope’s prayer as a beacon of hope to uncover the truth.

“These words represent a significant step forward, a request we have been making for years without any response,” Pietro Orlandi told AFP. Nevertheless, he emphasized the necessity for concrete actions to follow these words.

In March, Italy’s lower chamber of parliament passed a resolution to establish a commission to investigate Emanuela Orlandi’s case and that of another missing Vatican teenager, Mirella Gregori, who disappeared a few weeks earlier. However, the proposal is still pending discussion in the Senate, the upper chamber of parliament.

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