Emanuela Orlandi Podcast

History Uncovered Episode 1:
The Disappearance Of 15-Year-Old Emanuela Orlandi

Published June 26, 2023

In the summer of 1983, a Vatican teenager named Emanuela Orlandi went missing and was never heard from again. Her disappearance has since been linked to the Pope, Turkish terrorists, Italian mobsters, and even a covert Satanic orgy ring.

On June 22, 1983, 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi disappeared in Rome. The daughter of a Vatican official, Orlandi was last seen making her way home from a flute lesson. Then, she vanished without a trace.

At first, some believed that Orlandi had simply run away. Two tipsters called police and claimed to have met a girl named Barbarella or Barbara who seemed to match Orlandi’s description. They said that the girl had decided to leave home of her own volition. But more sinister theories soon emerged.

One has to do with Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish man who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II during an assassination attempt in 1981. Ağca, a member of a right-wing paramilitary group, has suggested that Orlandi was kidnapped by an ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist youth organization that he belonged to called the Grey Wolves. Ağca even gave an interview with Italian TV from prison during which he claimed that Orlandi was safe and alive.

Another theory suggests that Orlandi’s 1983 disappearance had to do with the Mafia, which had lent money to the Vatican Bank. When the bank was slow to repay its debts, the Mafia sought revenge. They launched a number of attacks, and some believe that they kidnapped Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican official, in retribution. A former girlfriend of mob boss Enrico De Pedis even told police that he’d confessed to kidnapping the girl.

Emanuela Orlandi

Pietro Orlandi/CNNEmanuela Orlandi, pictured here as a child, about a decade before her 1983 disappearance.

But perhaps the most unsettling theory suggests that Emanuela Orlandi was taken by someone within the Vatican itself. In 2012, a priest claimed that Orlandi had been kidnapped and assaulted during Vatican sex parties before she was finally murdered. A friend of the missing girl also claimed in a recent documentary that Orlandi had disappeared just days after she’d shared that she’d been sexually assaulted by “someone close to the Pope.”

Over the past four decades, investigators have chased theories like these in hopes of finding out the truth. They’ve dug up gangsters’ graves, investigated the tombs of 19th-century princesses, and followed money trails related to the Vatican. But the fate of the 15-year-old remains a mystery.

In the end, Emanuela Orlandi’s disappearance is one of the strangest cases in Vatican history. But the story isn’t over yet.

To the surprise of some, the Vatican reopened the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance in 2023. The new investigation will look into both Orlandi’s disappearance and the disappearance of another 15-year-old girl who vanished a few weeks before Orlandi did.

Dig deeper into the unsolved disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi.

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