The Vatican said on Tuesday it will open two graves in a small cemetery inside its grounds as part of efforts to solve the decades-old case of a missing girl named Emanuela Orlandi.
The procedure at the Vatican’s Teutonic Cemetery is due to take place on July 11, in the presence of the missing girl’s relatives, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement.
The head of the Vatican police, a forensic expert, lawyers and descendants of the people officially buried in the graves will also be present, and whatever is found will be dated and DNA tested, Gisotti added.
Orlandi, the daughter of a papal usher with Vatican citizenship, vanished at the age of 15 in central Rome in 1983. The case is one of the most enduring mysteries in recent Vatican history.
Gisotti called it a “long, painful and complex case.”
Earlier this year, a lawyer for the Orlandi family, Laura Sgro, said she received an anonymous letter indicating that the girl could be buried in the Teutonic Cemetery.
The Teutonic Cemetery is the oldest German Catholic institution in Rome. It hosts the graves of distinguished German or Flemish-speaking Catholics who lived in Rome.
The letter suggested to “look where the angel is pointing” – a presumed reference to an angel statue near the grave of Princess Sofia and Cardinal Prince Gustav von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfuerst.
The Vatican took up the issue after the Orlandis’ lawyer wrote to Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who is effectively Pope Francis’ deputy.
“We are very happy, really pleased” about Tuesday’s announcement, Sgro told the ANSA news agency, expressing her “most heartfelt thanks” to Parolin.
The missing girl’s brother Pietro, who has been campaigning for years for justice, said the Vatican was finally showing a will to get to the bottom of the affair.
The Orlandi case has been linked to a number of wild conspiracy theories over the years, but the missing girl’s fate has never been convincingly explained.
Her disappearance has been blamed in turn on anti-papal plots by foreign intelligence services; on the “Magliana Gang,” an Italian crime syndicate; and on sexual predators within the clergy.
Last year there was hope for a breakthrough when bones were found in a Vatican embassy in Rome, until forensic tests ruled out any connection to Orlandi.