Human remains found on Vatican property in Rome have many wondering if they belong to a young woman whose disappearance 35 years ago is the subject of many conspiracy theories.
ROME—The tall brick wall that stretches around the gardens of the Apostolic Nunciature in the swanky Parioli district of Rome has no doubt kept many secrets hidden over the centuries. This sacred Vatican property and diplomatic outpost, effectively the pope’s embassy, is protected by armed guards. Towering, leafy trees prevent even the most curious observers from peering inside. But secrets do surface and a grisly one led the Vatican press office to issue a cryptic note Tuesday night: Human bones had been discovered buried on the premises.
The Vatican couldn’t keep the story buried, as it were. After the remains were uncovered Monday during renovations, it wasn’t long before word of the discovery was leaked to an Italian journalist who asked the Holy See for clarification about just whose bones these might be. Or, perhaps more to the point, whether they are the bones of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old who disappeared under mysterious circumstances some 35 years ago.
Orlandi’s disappearance without a trace after a flute lesson near the 7th-century courtyard of Vatican-owned Sant’Apollinare church on June 22, 1983, has enthralled conspiracy theorists trying to determine what happened to her. She was last seen getting into a dark green BMW, but the car was never traced and the daughter of a Vatican functionary was never found.
She had told her sister that she had an appointment with a representative to sell Avon cosmetics before her music lesson, according to police records, though the mysterious Avon lady she met has never been identified.
There have also been numerous “sightings” of the girl over the years, and some of the more outrageous theories suggested that she is being kept as a sex slave inside the Vatican City walls. The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, claimed to have allegedly discovered the secret through his work.
“This was a crime with a sexual motive,” Amorth told La Stampanewspaper in 2012. “Parties were organized with a member of the Vatican gendarmerie acting as the recruiter of the girls. The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle.”
Orlandi’s father worked in the Vatican Bank, and another theory about her disappearance is that she was kidnapped to keep her father quiet after he allegedly discovered documents that tied Roberto Calvi, known as God’s Banker, to an organized-crime syndicate. Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982, his pockets filled with cash and bricks. His death has never been resolved definitively as suicide or murder.