Opening of Crypt Revives a Mystery

Reply Mon 14 May, 2012 03:10 pm

NY Times wrote:

ROME — Since 1983, when 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi vanished on a Rome street on her way home from a music lesson, investigators have struggled to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Various theories have tied the presumed kidnapping to intrigues involving the Italian secret services, organized crime and even the attempt to assassinate John Paul II — or combinations of the three.

On Monday, Rome police forensic experts pursued yet another lead when they exhumed a tomb in a Vatican church holding a notorious local mob boss. In addition to his remains, inside they also found hundreds of other bones in a nearby ancient ossuary in the crypt, which they now intend to test to see if any might have belonged to Emanuela.

The exhumation Monday adds a new chapter to the 29-year-old unsolved mystery of Emanuela’s disappearance. The story has captivated Italians because the girl was the daughter of an employee of the Vatican City State — and a citizen of the Vatican — a fact that many see as the key to understanding her disappearance.

Some theories have it that Orlandi was kidnapped on the orders of an American archbishop, Paul C. Marcinkus, the former president of the Vatican bank who was linked to a major Italian banking scandal in the 1980s. Others point to an anonymous phone call the Vatican received weeks after Emanuela’s disappearance, demanding the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot Pope John II in St. Peter’s Square in 1981, in exchange for her release.

An anonymous phone call in 2005 to a television program dealing with the disappearance added a new piece to the puzzle: “To find the solution to the case go and see who’s buried in the crypt of the basilica of Sant’Apollinare,” an unidentified man said, referring to the tomb of Enrico De Pedis, known as Renatino, a reputed mobster who was gunned down in Rome in 1990. The caller also inferred that Emanuela had been kidnapped as a favor to Cardinal Ugo Poletti, who in 1983 was the vicar general of Rome.

Questions remain about why Mr. De Pedis — a known criminal — was buried in a church owned by the Holy See to begin with. His tomb is in a crypt under the church, in a small locked room. Lorenzo Radogna, the lawyer for Mr. De Pedis’ wife, said Monday that the corpse would be brought to the family tomb in Rome’s main cemetery or cremated.

To lay rumors to rest that the Vatican had obstructed investigations into Emanuela’s disappearance, last month the Holy See agreed to the opening of Mr. De Pedis’ tomb.

Pietro Orlandi, the brother of the missing girl, said Monday the decision to open the tomb reflected a new collaboration between the Vatican and Italian prosecutors investigating the case. “It’s very positive,” he said. “Especially because this hadn’t been the case in the past.” The Vatican’s “silence for 29 years remains inexplicable for me,” he said.

“I never expected her to be buried there, but it was important to clear up a doubt,” he said Monday, adding that he was convinced that the truth behind his sister’s disappearance “is known to many people.”

Also Mr. Orlandi will lead a march to the Vatican later this month, in the hope that the Pope will “publicly acknowledge his sister.”

There are also those who have claimed to have proof that Emanuela is still alive, and members of the family have followed various trails after reported sightings of the now adult Emanuela in places like Turkey and England.

One book published last month goes as far as to suggest that Emanuela is alive and well and living in Rome. (It also claims that she was the illegitimate daughter of daughter of Archbishop Marcinkus, who died in 2006.) “The reopening of the tomb is to throw people off track,” said Roberta Hidalgo, the author of the book.

Police officials Monday confirmed that the tomb contained the body of the former member of Rome’s Magliana crime gang, identified through his fingerprints. They said tests would be carried out on the other bones found in the ancient crypt.

“The hope of the family is that the remains won’t be found” among them, said Massimo Krogh, a lawyer for the Orlandi family.

“Obviously as long as they don’t find anything they can hope she is still alive.”

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