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Vatican: No Violation of Confession in the Orlandi Case

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, that the Office of the Vatican Prosecutor “is actively cooperating with the relevant Italian authorities” and that he had provided the documents available for the reopened Orlandi investigation.

Among the documents given to the prosecutors of Rome are letters exchanged a few months after the disappearance of Orlandi in 1983 between Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then Secretary of State of the Vatican, and a Colombian priest who was the spiritual advisor and confessor of the Orlandi family, according to the Italian television channel La7.

Cardinal Casaroli asked the priest to confirm whether Natalina, the older sister of the Orlandi family, had been sexually harassed by her uncle, Mario Meneguzzi, before her disappearance. The priest replied that Natalina had confided in him that she was terrified and that she had been told to shut up or she would lose her job in the coffee shop her uncle ran.

At a press conference in Rome earlier this week, Natalina confirmed that her uncle had made verbal advances to her when they were working together in 1978, but that they stopped quickly as soon as she made it clear that she was not interested. “I only talked to the confessor about it,” she said, also specifying that she had talked to her boyfriend at the time.

In the Vatican statement issued the next day, Mr. Bruni clarified that the seal of confession had not been broken in the course of the investigation. “With respect to 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 discover the truth about these acts and, to this end, hopes that all the hypotheses of the investigation will be explored,” he added.

Emanuela Orlandi was the daughter of Ercole Orlandi, employee of the prefecture of the Pontifical House and a Vatican City citizen. Her disappearance on June 22, 1983, while she was on her way to a music class in Rome, made headlines and was the subject of speculation for decades.

Public interest in this case was rekindled last fall with the Netflix release of “The Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi,” a documentary series aired in October 2022, where, during interviews, various people came up with their theory about the missing teenager.

These explanations range from the involvement of Italian organized crime to the involvement of the Vatican in the mysterious disappearance. The show was not interested in Mario Meneguzzi. The latest Italian media reports point out that Meneguzzi looks like a composite of the man seen talking to Emanuela after her music lesson. The man also played an important role in responding to calls from suspected kidnappers after the girl’s disappearance.

Pietro, Orlandi’s brother, spoke out against the involvement of his uncle, claiming that Meneguzzi was not in Rome on the day of Emanuela’s disappearance and accusing 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 the Orlandi case.

As part of the new investigation into the 40-year-old disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi (aged 15 and living in Vatican City) opened last January by Alessandro Diddi, the Promoter of Justice, the investigators are looking at various avenues.