Published: Sat, July 13, 2019

Vatican discovers empty tombs in search for missing woman

Vatican discovers empty tombs in search for missing woman

The mystery behind the disappearance of an Italian teen 36 years ago intensified Thursday as the tombs of two 19th-century princesses buried at the Vatican were unsealed.

The Orlandi family later received an anonymous letter saying Emanuela's body might be hidden among the dead in the Teutonic cemetery where a statue of an angel holding a book reads "requiescat in pace", Latin for "rest in peace".

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said that not only were Orlandi's remains not in either of the tombs, neither were either of the princesses'.

Based on the photo, Vatican officials chose to open the graves of two princesses, one of whom was buried there in 1836 and another in 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.

In March, the Orlandi family's lawyer revealed the family had been sent a letter with a photo of an angel above a tomb in the Vatican cemetery.

The brother of long-missing Emanuela Orlandi, Pietro, attended the exhumation of two Vatican graves on Thursday as local officials searched for any trace of his sister.

Experts probed a burial ground inside the Holy See walls looking for the remains of Emanuela Orlandi, a Vatican clerk's daughter who's been missing since 1983.


Following the opening, the Vatican said in a statement that it "wants to reiterate that it has always expressed attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family, especially Emanuela's mother".

Two empty tombs "A careful inspection of the tomb of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe brought to light a large underground space of about 4 meters by 3.70 that is completely empty".

"The DNA test will be done in any case, in order to be certain and to exclude definitively and categorically the chance that any remains in the two tombs are attributable to poor Emanuela", he said. Conspiracy theories have abounded, including perhaps she was kidnapped as a part of a failed bid for the release of the Turkish gunman who shot and severely wounded Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in 1981.

Pietro Orlandi said that in a certain sense that no bones were found was "personally a relief", since it would have been upsetting to view remains that might have been those of his sister.

"The tomb had obviously been recently opened, there was new cement on it, but we didn't know why or when, we were given no information", Sgro told CBS News. No remains or urns were found in the tombs of the two princesses. DNA tests came back negative.

A second, similar grave alongside the first was also opened to rule out any misunderstandings over which grave was meant.

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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