The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it will open two tombs in the centuries-old cemetery next week and test the DNA in an attempt to solve the case of a Vatican employee’s missing teenage daughter who disappeared 36 years ago.
Emanuela Orlandi was 15-years-old when she left for a flute lesson in central Rome in 1983 and never returned home. The case received new publicity last summer when an attorney for the Orlandi family received an anonymous letter with a tip. The letter suggested that the girl might be buried at the small Teutonic Cemetery where German and Austrian nationals are buried on Vatican grounds, Reuters reported.
“Look where the angel is pointing,” the letter said, referencing a marble statue on an angel above the German prince’s tomb, The London Times reported. The angel holds a sheet bearing the words “Rest in Peace.”
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Tuesday the Holy See approved the Orlandi’s family’s request to reopen the two graves. Orlandi's relatives, family attorneys and members of the Holy See will be present when the two graves are opened on July 11. The members of the families of the tombs being opened will also be at the site.
Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela's brother, told the ANSA news agency that "After 35 years of lack of co-operation, the start of an investigation is an important breakthrough." Members of the Orlandi family have appeared on television and spoke to newspapers for decades to demand answers.
The Italian media speculated for years over what could have happened to Orlandi. Many Italians believe she was killed in connection with the Catholic Church’s financial scandals in the 1980s given that her father was employed by the Vatican Bank, Sky News reported.
Others believe she was kidnapped in order to negotiate the freedom of a gunman jailed for trying to assassinate Pope John Paul II. After rumors spread that Orlandi’s body might be found in the grave of Enrico De Pedis, a mobster buried in Rome, his tomb was reopened in 2012, but no DNA evidence was found.
Last year, two sets of remains were found in the basement of a building of the Vatican's embassy in Rome. That discovery sparked speculation that the remains might belong to Orlandi and Mirella Gregori, another teenager who disappeared the same year, Reuters reported. DNA disproved that theory.
When she first vanished, authorities said her disappearance might not be related to her father’s work at the Vatican or that she could have been a victim of human trafficking. She would be 51 if found alive today.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.