Emanuela Orlandi mystery: Vatican opens graves

Nellie Chapman
July 13, 2019

The Orlandi family later received an anonymous letter saying Emanuela's body might be hidden among the dead in the Teutonic cemetery where a statue of an angel holding a book reads "requiescat in pace", Latin for "rest in peace".

"Careful inspection of the tomb of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe has unearthed a large underground compartment of about 4 meters by 3.70, completely empty", Gisottti said. "The family members of the two Princesses were informed of the results of the research".

Officials were expecting to find at least the bones of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklenburg, who died in 1840, but there was no trace of either.

Gisotti highlighted how the Holy See has always shown sensitivity and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi Family, in particular to Emanuela's mother. After searching for Emanuela incessantly for three decades, the family's lawyer had said they wouldn't be happy "if they find Emanuela's corpse just 200 yards from their home".

Over the decades the unsolved Orlandi case has sparked conspiracy theories ranging from kidnap by a terrorist group demanding the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square in 1981, to the involvement of the Banda della Magliana, Rome's notorious criminal gang founded in the 1970s. "In that moment I told myself, "he knows something, more than us", he said. So far there has been no solid evidence in the case at all.

Workers open one of two tombs within the Vatican's grounds in the Teutonic Cemetery is opened on July 11, 2019, as part of a probe into the mysterious 1983 disappearance of teenager Emanuela Orlandi. "Much depends on the environmental conditions, on the microclimate in which they are found, on the humidity, on the presence of infiltrations, on possible actions of microfauna".

Exhumation work began this morning on the two tombs, but officials were left bewildered to find the two tombs empty.

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When the family went to visit the site, they noticed that one of the tombs had recently been opened. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

The Vatican City State tribunal made the order to open the graves last week.

A second, similar grave alongside the first was also opened to rule out any misunderstandings over which grave was meant.

The Vatican had announced it had engaged a forensic anthropology expert, a professor of forensic medicine at a Rome university, to examine the remains and prepare them for DNA testing.

And a year ago, a bag of bones was found during ground work at the Vatican embassy in Rome, but DNA tests turned out negative.

The Vatican's next step following the discovery, Gisotti explained, will be to look into documentation about structural renovations that took place in the cemetery at the end of the 1800s and in the 1960s and '70s.

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