Vatican Spokesman's Response to Media Speculation on '83 Kidnapping

Case of Young Emanuela Orlandi Again in Public Eye

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the full text of a statement from the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, in response to recent Italian media reports regarding the 1983 kidnapping of a young citizen of Vatican City State, Emanuela Orlandi.

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The tragic event of the kidnapping of young Emanuela Orlandi has once again been in the public spotlight in recent months due to certain initiatives and interventions that have been commented on by the press and in which the question has been raised whether persons or institutions in the Vatican really did everything possible to help discover the truth about what happened.

Since much time has already passed since the relevant events (the kidnapping took place on June 22, 1983, almost 30 years ago) and a good many of the persons who were in positions of responsibility at the time have died, naturally it is not possible to consider a detailed reexamination of what occurred. But it is possible – on account of certain particularly trustworthy testimonies and a rereading of the available documentation – to verify in substance the criteria and attitudes with which Vatican officials proceeded to deal that situation.

The principal questions are the following:

Did the Vatican authorities of the time really do their best to handle the situation and work together with Italian authorities in that sense?

Are there still new elements that have not been revealed but that are known by someone on the Vatican that could be useful in finding out the truth?

It is proper to recall first of all that Pope John Paul II personally showed himself to be particularly concerned with the tragic kidnapping, so much so that he publicly intervened on various occasions (8 times in less than a year!) with pleas for the freeing of Emanuela; he visited her family personally, he made sure that her brother Pietro was guaranteed a job. To the Pope’s personal involvement there naturally corresponded the involvement of his collaborators.

Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, secretary of state and therefore the first among the Pope’s assistants, monitored the situation personally, indeed, as is well-known, he agreed to have a special phone line installed by which he could be contacted by the kidnappers.

As he already attested in the past and as he continues to attest, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who at the time was the assessor of the Secretariat of State, not only was the Secretariat of State itself involved but so too was the Governatorate of State, both doing everything possible to contribute to dealing with the painful event, collaborating of course with the Italian authorities conducting the investigation. The latter obviously had the competence and responsibility for the investigation since it took place in Italy.

The total readiness of persons in positions of responsibility in the Vatican to assist in the case is clear from the facts and the circumstances. To give only one example, the investigators (and above all the Intelligence and Democratic Security Service or SISDE) had access to the Vatican switchboard to listen to possible calls from the kidnappers. Vatican authorities also worked together with the Italian authorities to unmask ignoble forms of fraud on the part of alleged informants.

A note verbale (N. 187.168) of the Secretariat of State on March 4, 1987, made in response to the first formal request for information by the investigating Italian magistrates on November 13, 1986, expressed the simple truth: “the information relative to the case was transmitted at the time to the public prosecutor Dr. Sica.” It attests that all of the Vatican letters and reports were promptly delivered to Dr. Domenico Sica and to the Public Security Inspector at the Vatican; presumably they were also handed over to the appropriate Italian judicial offices.

Also, in the second phase of the investigation, a decade later, the 3 letters rogatory sent to Vatican authorities by the Italian investigators (1 in 1994 and 2 in 1995) were responded to  (notes verbales of the Secretariat of State N. 346.491, of May 3, 1994; N. 369.354, of April 27, 1995; N. 372.117, of June 21, 1995). As requested by the investigators, Mr. Ercole Orlandi (Emanuela’s father), Commander Camillo Cibin (head of Vatican security at the time), Cardinal Agostino Casaroli (former secretary of state), his excellency Monsignor Eduardo Martinez Somalo (former deputy secretary of state), Monsignor Giovanni Battista Re (assessor of the Secretariat of State), his excellency Monsignor Dino Monduzzi (prefect of the Pontifical Household at the time), Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli (former under-secretary of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State), gave their depositions on the questions posed by the investigators to the Vatican Tribunal and the documents were sent by the Italian Embassy at the Vatican to the relevant authorities. The files still exist and continue to be available to investigators. It should also be stressed that at the time of Emanuela’s kidnapping, the Vatican authorities, in the spirit of true collaboration permitted the Italian investigators and the SISDE to tap the Vatican telephone of the Orlandi family and to enter the Vatican freely to go to the Orlandi house without the mediation of Vatican functionaries.

So, there is no basis for the accusation that the Vatican prevented cooperation with the Italian authorities conducting the investigations.

This provides an opportunity to emphasize that it is the Holy See’s practice to respond to international letters rogatory, and it is unjust to claim the contrary (as was recently suggested in regard to a letter rogatory about the Vatican Bank, which in fact was never sent to the Holy See, as the competent Italian diplomatic officials confirmed).

The fact that an Italian magistrate was not present but that it was requested on the Italian side that the questions posed be formulated precisely is part of standard international practice in judicial cooperation and should come as no surprise nor cause suspicion (cf. article 4 of the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of April 20, 1959).

The substance of the matter is that unfortunately there was no bit of evidence in the Vatican that could furnish the investigators with the solution to the case. At that time the Vatican authorities, on the basis of messages that were received that referred to [Mehmet] Ali Ağca – the inquiry into the assassination attempt on John Paul II was occurring simultaneously – shared the prevalent opinion that the kidnapping was carried out by an obscure criminal organization to send messages or exert pressure in connection with the imprisonment and the interrogators of the Pope’s would-be assassin.

There was no reason to think that there were other motives for the kidnapping. So, the claim that persons belonging to Vatican institutions had knowledge of secrets relating to the case – although no names were named – does not correspond to any information that is trustworthy or has any basis; sometimes it almost seems an alibi in the face of the discouragement and the frustration over the failure to find the truth.

In conclusion, light of the testimony and the evidence gathered, I would like to make the following points with firmness:

All of the Vatican authorities cooperated wholeheartedly and transparently with the Italian authorities to deal with the situation of the kidnapping in the first phase and in the later investigations too.

There is no evidence that anything was covered up, nor that there are “secrets” to be revealed about the subject in the Vatican. To continue to say otherwise is unjustified, also because, let it be stressed once more, all the relevant material in the Vatican was handed over at the time to the public prosecutor and the police officials; moreover, the SISDE, the headquarters (Qu
estura) of the Roman police and the Carabinieri had direct access to the Orlandi family and to the documentation relevant to the investigations.

If the Italian authorities investigating the case – in the context of the ongoing investigation – believe it useful or necessary to present new letters rogatory to Vatican officials, they can do so, at any time, according to the standard practice and they will find, as always, the appropriate cooperation.

Finally, since the location of the tomb of Enrico De Pedis at the Basilica of Apollinare has raised and continues to raise questions and cause discussion – even prescinding from its possible connection to the Orlandi kidnapping – we again stress that the Church will not prevent the inspection of the tomb or the burial of the corpse elsewhere, so that the proper peace, corresponding to the nature of a sacred place, be reestablished.

To conclude, we would like once again to take our cue and inspiration from John Paul II’s intense personal concern over the tragic event involving the young woman and the suffering of her family, who are still in darkness about Emanuela’s fate. Unfortunately this suffering returns with the emergence of every new angle of explanation, which are so far without results. If the persons are many who disappear every year in Italy and of whom nothing more is known, despite the investigations and searches, still the story of this innocent young Vatican citizen who disappeared continues to return to the spotlight. This is no reason to project upon the Vatican faults that it does not have, but is rather an occasion to reflect on the terrible reality, often forgotten, of missing persons – especially younger persons – and for all to oppose with all their might every criminal activity that causes it.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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