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Vatican: Seal of confession not violated in ‘Vatican girl’ investigation

From the Netflix documentary series, “Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi” / Netflix

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2023 / 09:46 am (CNA).

In the latest twist in the 40-year-old cold case of the disappearance of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, who lived in Vatican City, investigators are reportedly looking into the possible involvement of the uncle of the missing “Vatican girl.”

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Wednesday night that the Vatican prosecutor’s office is “actively cooperating with the competent Italian authorities” and had handed over the available documentation in the reopened investigation into Orlandi’s case. 

Among the documentation delivered to prosecutors in Rome were letters exchanged just months after Orlandi’s disappearance in 1983 between then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli and a Colombian priest who served as the spiritual adviser and confessor of the Orlandi family, according to the Italian television channel La7. 

Casaroli asked the priest to confirm if Orlandi’s older sister Natalina had been sexually harassed by her uncle, Mario Meneguzzi, prior to Orlandi’s disappearance. The priest replied that Natalina confided in him that she was terrified and had been told to keep quiet or she would lose her job at the cafe run by her uncle. 

At a press conference in Rome earlier this week, Natalina confirmed that her uncle had made unwanted verbal advances when they worked together in 1978 but said that this stopped quickly once she made it clear that she was not interested.

“I had only spoken about it with the confessor,” she said, noting that she had also told her boyfriend at the time. 

In the Vatican statement published the day after the press conference, Bruni clarified that the confessional seal had not been broken in the Orlandi investigation.

“Regarding the reports involving a relative of Emanuela, it is noted that the correspondence in question expressly indicates that there was no violation of the sacramental seal of confession,” Bruni said on July 12.

“The Holy See shares the family’s desire to arrive at the truth about the actions and, to this end, hopes that all hypotheses of the investigation will be explored,” he said.

Emanuela Orlandi was the teenage daughter of Ercole Orlandi, an envoy of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance on June 22, 1983, after leaving for a music lesson in Rome, has dominated headlines in Italy and been the subject of speculation for decades.

Public interest in the case was also rekindled last fall after the release of “Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi” on Netflix.

The true-crime docuseries, which premiered on the streaming service in October 2022, featured interviews with subjects who proffer numerous theories about Orlandi’s disappearance ranging from the involvement of Italian organized crime to a theory that the Vatican was involved in some way in Orlandi’s disappearance. Meneguzzi was not looked at by the series.

The latest Italian media reports highlight how Meneguzzi’s appearance resembled that of an identikit facial composite drawing of a man who was seen talking to Orlandi after her music lesson. La 7 reported that Meneguzzi also had played an important role in answering the calls that came from alleged kidnappers after Orlandi’s disappearance.

Orlandi’s brother Pietro pushed back against the implication of his uncle, saying that Meneguzzi was not in Rome on the day of Emanuela’s disappearance and accused the Vatican of seeking to deny any form of responsibility. He called on the Italian Parliament to vote in favor of opening a bicameral commission of inquiry to find the truth in Orlandi’s case.

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