The disappearance that still mortifies the Vatican, a television phenomenon in Italy

Who or who made Emanuela disappear? On the hot afternoon of June 22, 1983, a citizen of the Vatican State disappeared on her way to a music class. She is 15 years old, her name is Emanuela Orlandi and she is the daughter of Ercole Orlandi, envoy of the Prefecture of the Papal Household and a citizen of the Vatican City State. The investigations begin. The Vatican itself, the secret services of various European countries, the mafia and even a man who has tried to kill John Paul II end up being investigated. There is no conclusion. The case was closed in 2016. Nothing is known about the young woman. Only 39 years later, the question remains unanswered and Orlandi’s family continues to search for the girl.

This is the synopsis of Vatican Girl, a production directed by Australian Mark Lewis, based on a true story and now distributed in more than 150 countries. A new four-episode docuseries on Netflix that is sweeping Italy and abroad, and that brings one of the darkest cold cases in Vatican history back to the fore. This thanks to its ingredients, but also thanks to a powerful Italian-American production that, since the eve of the premiere two weeks ago, has papered the main Italian cities with the old announcements of the disappearance of the young woman.

“It’s a story that Dan Brown could have written. It starts with a little local story of a girl who goes missing on a hot summer afternoon in the center of Rome, and then the story turns into one involving the KGB and Cold War politics,” explains its director. “We uncovered factions working within the Vatican to advance particular policies and restore Catholicism in the Eastern Bloc. Then there is the mafia and the Roman underworld of the story. It’s like a political thriller that appealed to me, ”he adds. But it is not conclusive. “The way I look at it is we have a table, and over the years, we’ve been putting big pieces of a puzzle on that table. Slowly but surely, that puzzle is being completed. But some key pieces of the puzzle are still missing. I hope that, for the good of the family, those last pieces are found, ”adds Lewis.

suspected sexual assault

Investigative journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, interviewed during the docuseries, is not at all surprised by the success of Vatican girl. “That the Vatican has not answered questions about this case since the 1980s, that it involves a young woman and a Vatican citizen, and also that the disappearance occurred at a time of great political upheaval in Italy and when various financial scandals were shaking the Holy See surely explain why 40 years later public opinion is still obsessed with this case,” he says.

Fittipaldi, who discovered documents a few years ago indicating that the young woman could still be alive and that the Holy See was implicated in the case, believes that one of Lewis’s main merits has been unraveling the many false leads surrounding this story and putting emphasis on a theory that could explain the reasons behind Emanuela’s disappearance: that the young woman was sexually assaulted by a person very close to the late Pope John Paul II. A hypothesis that, a few years ago, was also partly suggested by the late Italian exorcist Gabriele Amorth.

This time, the possible reconstruction is based on the testimony of a woman, a childhood friend of Emanuela’s and whose identity has not been revealed, who assures that, days before her disappearance, the young woman told her that she had been the victim of an episode of abuse. This secret would have later been used by the Banda della Magliana, a criminal organization then active in Rome, to organize the kidnapping of Emanuela and extort money from the Vatican, according to what Andrea Purgatori, a journalist who followed the case from the beggining. “What good is all this?”, on the contrary, the newspaper Il Manifesto has asked, emphasizing that the clues provided are not conclusive at all.

“The problem is that elements are missing. Emanuela is still missing and these new testimonies could cause enormous damage to the image of the Church, since we are talking about John Paul II, a Pope who has been declared a saint, which would also explain the reluctance of the Vatican”, Fittipaldi reasons before add that he is also pessimistic about the possibility that one day the whole truth about this case will be known. “Even so, the hope is that Vatican Girl leads to finding new evidence,” adds the researcher, who also reveals that, thanks to the great noise caused by the series, he has already found new unpublished clues on which he is working these days.

Turkish question mark

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish activist convicted of the attack on John Paul II in 1981 and who even claimed that the young woman had been kidnapped to force her release – a clue that was never proven, like many things he has said over the years –, also wanted to give his opinion on the series. According to the current version of Agca, the reconstruction of the events made by Lewis is a “systematic campaign” of slander against the Catholic Church and the disappearance of Emanuela is linked to the third secret of Fatima (which would refer to the apocalyptic end of humanity ). He thus affirms it in a note sent last week to the Italian press.

It is not the first time that Agca, whose statements are usually given when news of media interest related to the Vatican appears, uses this bizarre argument that he has also given to explain what would be behind the attack against John Paul II. Even so, Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother and heavily involved in her search, has urged him to provide any new evidence if he has it. Meanwhile the Vatican, as it has already done from the beginning, continues without saying a word.

The disappearance that still mortifies the Vatican, a television phenomenon in Italy