An Italian Mystery of the 1980s Revived

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 06/25/2008 - 5:51pm.


On June 22, 1983, Emanuela Orlandi, 15, was walking home in central Rome from a music lesson when she vanished. Home was inside Vatican City, since her father was a Vatican employee.  That transformed into what might have been a straightforward missing-persons case into one of Italy's most enthralling and enduring mysteries.

The Vatican today angrily rejected the accusation that a former official was behind the kidnap and murder of a 15-year-old girl in Rome 25 years ago.

In a statement it attacked the claim as an "infamous and baseless charge against a man who is dead and cannot defend himself".

Sabrina Minardi, the former mistress of Enrico De Pedis, a Rome criminal boss, has told police that Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, was kidnapped by De Pedis on the orders of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus.

The Archbishop was the former head of IOR, the Vatican bank, and was implicated in events leading to the mysterious death of the Mafia-linked Italian banker Roberto Calvi.

"They did it to send a message to someone," she told prosecutors.

Archbishop Marcinkus later resigned in disgrace and died two years ago in Arizona aged 84.

Ms Minardi, whose testimony has led police to re-open the Orlandi case, claims that she was present when the teenager's body was put in a sack and thrown into a cement mixer at the resort of Torvaianica on the coast near Rome.

Ms Minardi alleged that Miss Orlandi had been seized and killed on the orders of Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the then head of the Vatican bank. Marcinkus, (foreground), was the head of the Vatican Bank from 1971 to 1989.

The most commonly held theory is that the Magliana gang abducted the girl to help KGB-backed conspirators put pressure on Italy to release Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish Grey Wolves gunman who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. The Orlandi family received a series of anonymous phone calls from men claiming that they could negotiate a deal, but the contacts came to nothing.

Ms Orlandi's mother, brother and three sisters continue to believe Ms Orlandi is alive. This week they have plastered Rome with replicas of the "missing" posters put up in 1983.

The family told Italian television they did not believe the claims made by Ms Minardi, who is a recovering drug addict. Before her affair with De Pedis, Ms Minardi was married to Bruno Giordano, the Lazio and Italy football star.

Inexplicably De Pedis, who had a long record of serious crime involving drugs trafficking, was buried in the church of Saint Apollinaris in Rome in a crypt normally reserved for prelates and saints after he was shot dead in a Rome street in 1990. A stylish underworld figure, he is alleged to have had close contacts with Church prelates and to have been "very religious". According to Ms Minardi Archbishop Marcinkus helped to launder money on De Pedis's behalf.

In its note the Vatican said that it had no intention of "interfering in any way" with the police investigation. But at the same time it could only express "strong regret and censure" over reports which owed "more to sensationalism than serious professional ethics" and had caused further pain to the Orlandi family.

Ms Minardi was quoted as saying that six or seven months before Ms Orlandi's death she had taken the girl on De Pedis's instructions to meet "a tall priest" who had a "boxer's physique". She had recognised the "priest" as Archbishop Marcinkus, but De Pedis had warned her to "forget all about it" and had threatened to kidnap her own daughter unless she held her tongue.

Archbishop Marcinkus, born in Cicero, Illinois, to Lithuanian immigrants, rose in the Vatican hierarchy to become head of the Vatican bank from 1971 to 1989. He was implicated in the collapse of the Vatican and Mafia linked Banco Ambrosiano, headed by Mr Calvi, who in 1982 was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London, allegedly murdered.

Corriere della Sera carried photographs of the basement of a building not far from the Vatican in which, according to Ms Minardi, the kidnapped girl was held prisoner. It was used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War.

Natalina Orlandi, the missing woman's sister, told Il Messaggero that the theory that the kidnap was linked to the attempt on the life of John Paul II and the theory that it had to do with the Magliana gang were "not mutually exclusive".

However Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, a veteran Vatican official, said that he did not believe the kidnapping was linked to the attempt on the Pope's life. He said he wondered why, if Emanuela was still alive, there had been no attempt in 25 years to contact her family.

Antonio Mancini, a former member of the Magliana gang turned "pentito" (supergrass), said he believed that the kidnapping was connected to financial dealings between the gang, the Vatican and Roberto Calvi, and specifically to events surrounding the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano.

Otello Lupacchini, a judge who investigated both the Calvi affair and the Magliana gang, said that De Pedis had "invested" in the Banco Ambrosiano and may have abducted Ms Orlandi to put pressure on Calvi and the Vatican Bank to help him retrieve "unpaid debts". However the idea that Marcinkus had ordered the abduction was "fantasy".

Massimo Krogh and Nicoletta Piromallo, lawyers for the Orlandi family, dismissed Ms Minardi's testimony as "unreliable." The Italian journalists union protested after police raided the offices of AGI, the Italian news agency which first disclosed details of Ms Minardi's evidence. Police said that the leaked testimony could damage the inquiry, but the union said it was "the duty of journalists in a democracy to reveal the truth".

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 06/25/2008 - 5:51pm.