Vatican opens up two graves in search for girl missing for decades

VATICAN-RELIGION-ITALY-MISSING

By Linda BordoniThere are no human remains, no coffins, no urns and no bones in the two 19th century graves in the Teutonic Cemetery inside the Vatican where forensic experts were searching for the remains of Emanuela Orlandi.

The Vatican said in a statement that not only were Emanuela Orlandi's remains not found, the tombs did not even hold the remains of the two princessess supposed to be buried there in the Teutonic Cemetery in the tiny city state.

The tombs that will be opened belong to two princesses, buried in 1836 and 1840.

In 2018 human remains found underneath the Vatican nunciature to Italy, located in Rome's Parioli district, sparked speculation that Orlandi might have finally been found.

The girl's disappearance has gripped Italians for more than three decades, inspiring conspiracy theories involving everyone from mobsters to global terrorists and the highest echelons of the Vatican.

Not only was the body of Emanuela Orlandi not found, but neither were the remains of Princess Carlotta Federica or Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe.

Vatican workers, supervised by Vatican police and a forensic anthropologist, opened the tombs July 11 after a short prayer was recited by the graves.

Her father Ercole worked as a clerk in the pontiff's household and over the years there have been various investigations into her disappearance, all of which have proved inconclusive. "In that moment I told myself, "he knows something, more than us", he said. 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".

Theories about Emanuela's disappearance have run the gamut from an attempt to secure freedom for Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turk jailed in 1981 for trying to assassinate Pope John Paul II, to a connection to the grave of Enrico De Pedis, a mobster buried in a Rome basilica.

Gisotti said that under a marble slab that was believed to be Princess Sophie's tomb there was a large subterranean opening, measuring four meters by 3.7 meters (13 feet by 12 feet), "completely empty".

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. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

Professor Arcudi can not predict how long the procedure will take: "It depends, precisely, on the state, quality and quantity of the remains that we will find", he says. DNA tests came back negative.

The Vatican tribunal ordered both tombs to be opened, however, as they are immediately next to each other and they have "similar mausoleums - in order to avoid possible misunderstandings about which grave is the indicated grave".

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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