© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A picture of Pope John Paul II is displayed on the facade of the presidential palace in Warsaw, Poland March 9, 2023. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki/File Photo
By Philippe Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday dismissed as offensive and unfounded what he said were insinuations from the brother of a Vatican schoolgirl who disappeared 40 years ago about one of his predecessors in as pontiff, Saint John Paul II.
Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican bailiff, did not return home on June 22, 1983 after a music lesson in Rome. She was 15 at the time and lived with her family inside the Vatican. His disappearance is one of Italy’s most enduring mysteries.
The case entered a new chapter on Tuesday when his brother Pietro met with Vatican chief prosecutor Alessandro Diddi, whom Francis gave carte blanche to get to the bottom of the case.
After talking to Diddi for more than eight hours, Pietro Orlandi appeared on a TV show where he played part of an audio recording with the voice of a man who Orlandi claimed was part of a criminal group. organized that the Italian media have speculated for decades. implicated in the disappearance of his sister.
The voice of the alleged gangster says that over 40 years ago girls were brought to the Vatican to be assaulted and that Pope John Paul knew about it.
Orlandi then said in his own words on the show: “They tell me that Wojtyla (family name of Pope John Paul II) used to go out at night with two Polish monsignors and it was certainly not not to bless houses”.
The comments caused a storm and were condemned by Vatican officials in recent days before the pope himself entered the fray during his midday address to around 20,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.
“Certain that I interpret the feelings of the faithful all over the world, I express a grateful thought in memory of Saint John Paul, who in these days has been the subject of offensive and unfounded insinuations,” Francis said. .
The crowd, mostly Italian, cheered.
Diddi summoned Pietro Orlandi’s lawyer, Laura Sgro, on Saturday. The Vatican said she invoked attorney-client privilege. Sgro told Reuters on Sunday that John Paul did not intervene in his conversation with Diddi, adding in a text message: “I have never questioned the sanctity of John Paul II.”
Orlandi told Reuters by telephone on Sunday that it was “correct that Francis defended John Paul II”. Orlandi added that during the TV appearance he was “repeating what other people had said. I certainly didn’t see it myself.”
Vatican editorial director Andrea Tornielli previously condemned Orlandi’s comments as a “sordid” defamation of the pontiff, who led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005 and was declared a saint in 2014.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served as John Paul’s secretary throughout his leadership, called Orlandi’s actions “despicable, unrealistic, laughable if not tragic, even criminal.”
Over the past four decades, graves have been opened, bones have been unearthed from forgotten graves and conspiracy theories have abounded in attempts to determine what became of Emanuela Orlandi.
The case, which has been the subject of on-and-off investigations in Italy and the Vatican, gained worldwide attention following the release late last year of the Netflix (NASDAQ:) series “Vatican Girl “.
She would be 55 today.
(This story has been reclassified to clarify that John Paul II was not the immediate predecessor of Pope Francis, in paragraph 1)