ROME – Rome prosecutors are following a new lead in the disappearance of Italian teen Emanuela Orlandi in the 1980s which is based on a new tip saying two Vatican officials allegedly offered to provide information while Benedict XVI was still in office.

Rome prosecutors called the former head of the office, Giancarlo Capaldo, to be interviewed as a “person informed of the facts” after saying in an interview earlier this month that while he was still in office, two high-level Vatican officials approached him about the Orlandi case.

The new investigation, in which there are no suspects or hypothesized crimes, was opened based on input from Italy’s Superior Council of the Magistrate and after a formal request was made by the Orlandi family lawyer, Laura Sgrò.

Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee, disappeared while on her way home from a music lesson in June 1983 at the age of 15.

In the nearly 40 years that have elapsed, she has become the source of numerous conspiracy theories about what might have happened.

These theories include intricate plots saying she was kidnapped by the Italian mob in a bid to pressure the Vatican bank; that she fell victim to a clerical sex ring; and that she was taken by Turkish nationalists to strongarm Pope John Paul II into releasing the man who attempted to assassinate him in 1981, among other things.

Numerous alleged tips have surfaced over the years as to the whereabouts of her body, none of which have ever led to new breaks in the case.

One of these came earlier this month when the retired head of the Rome Prosecutor’s Office, Giancarlo Capaldo, gave an interview to Italy’s La7 television channel in which he claimed to have been approached by two senior Vatican “emissaries” in 2012 who offered to share information on the Orlandi case in exchange for help removing the remains of a top mob boss from a prominent Roman basilica.

That mob boss was Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, the former head of the Banda della Magliana organized crime outfit, and who was buried in the crypt of Rome’s Basilica of Sant’Apollinare, which sits directly across from Rome’s famed Piazza Navona, after being gunned down in the street in 1990.

According to Capaldo, several meetings took place between himself and the two high-profile Vatican officials who first approached him about the Orlandi case in exchange for moving De Pedis’s remains.

De Pedis’s tomb was opened in 2012 after numerous conspiracy theories floated saying Orlandi’s remains would be found there. They were not, but after several weeks De Pedis’s body was removed and cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea.

Capaldo said his work with the two Vatican “emissaries” ended when he retired later on in 2012, and his replacement as Rome’s chief prosecutor, Italian lawyer Giuseppe Pignatone, who just two years after his own retirement in 2017 was tapped by Pope Francis as President of the Vatican Tribunal, making him the top judicial authority in the small city-state.

Orlandi’s case was eventually archived under Pignatone in 2016, but Capaldo resisted the move and refused to sign the papers.

After Capaldo’s interview, in which he said he would be willing to disclose the names of the two Vatican officials who approached him if he were ever formally interviewed, Sgrò made a formal request to both civil and Vatican authorities to question Capaldo and to launch an investigation into the conduct of officials in the Rome prosecutor’s office regarding the Orlandi case.

Italy’s Superior Council of the Judiciary, after receiving Sgrò’s request, brought Capaldo in for questioning, but what he confided is still unknown.

In a statement, Sgrò said the Orlandi family “is waiting to know every detail relating to the alleged meetings that took place between the former magistrate and representatives of Vatican authorities, the names of participants, their respective requests, and also why these circumstances have only been made public now.”

However, it is unlikely the Vatican will launch its own investigation into the matter, as Pignatone in a letter to the editor of Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera written the day after Capaldo’s interview was aired denied any knowledge of the alleged meetings between his predecessor in the prosecutor’s office and Vatican officials.

According to Pignatone, Capaldo “never said anything, as he should have, about his asserted interlocutions with ‘emissaries’” of the Vatican.

“Only after having gone into retirement (March 23, 2017), did Dr. Capaldo refer in books and interviews to his asserted interlocutions with emissaries of the Vatican,” Pignatone said, insisting that he had asked Capaldo to stay on for several years after his retirement to help with the case, and not once were these meetings mentioned.

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