Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican employee, disappeared in Rome on June 22, 1983. Several explanations have been given: it’s just another disappearance, a case of white slaver trade, an attempt to rescue Agca from prison; a weapon of pressure and blackmail, tied to the attack against the pope and the IOR-Ambrosian Bank scandal; the tragic result of a power struggle inside the Vatican. The disappearance happened two years after the attack on the pope, one after the bankruptcy of the Ambrosian and the murder of its president, and one after the IOR had paid more than 240 million dollars to creditors of the Ambrosian Bank. The case is complex and diabolical: does it have anything in common with the other Vatican enigmas that are associated with the pontificate of John Paul II?


Fears of another assassination attempt


Emanauela was 15 years old. She had finished grammar school studies with a few bad grades. Two afternoons a week she went to classes at a music school located in the St. Apolinnaire palace next to Navona Square. She enjoyed going, not only because she liked music, but also because she felt attracted to a student of the guitar who was four years older, Alberto Laurenti.

That afternoon, Emanuela phoned home, asking for her mother: “She’s not here”, replied her sister Federica. She commented that a man had offered her a job, distributing Avon products on Saturday of the following week. “He promised me 375 liras”, “he’s coming after class to see if Mama gives me permission or not.” The amount offered for a job of two or three hours was not believable. Federica, who on one occasion had worked for Avon, told her sister to forget the matter and return immediately home. But Emanuela did not return.

The next day, John Paul II returned to the Vatican by plane from Cracow. The Polish journalist Jacek Palkiewicz, a friend of the pope and on that occasion member of his entourage, detected a sudden nervousness around him and asked what was happening: “There are fears of a new attack against the pope.” [1]

On the 25th, a certain Pierluigi telephones the Orlandi family. He gives details about Emanuela. He says she’s run away from home because her life was dull and monotonous, but she would return at the end of the summer.

On the 26th, around 23.45, two agents of the SISDE, Information Service for Democratic Security, the Italian secret service, call on the Orlandis. They are Mario Vulpiani and Giulio Gangi. “They told me that they were from the SISDE and that they were investigating the white slave trade,” says Ercole, the father of Emanuela. “Vulpiani said that he was from Torano, the little village of our summer holidays, and Gangi added that he too visited Torano. This coincidence with the town of our holidays impressed me a great deal, but there was no reason to suspect…Nevertheless, Gangi did not tell me that he had met Emanuela in Torano nor that he was well acquainted with my niece Monica; I only noted that my son-in-law Mario, when he saw him outside on the steps of the house, in St. Egidio Square, exclaimed, Ah, it’s you! And I realized that they knew each other.” 

The agents said a listening device had to be attached to the telephone to register the calls, and so they did it. Afterwards they asked to have a quick look at Emanuela’s room and her things, including her diaries. More than a quick look, it was a complete registry, which was repeated in successive days. “If they took something, I don’t know… Obviously I trusted them, no one controlled them, we were desperate and we had something very different in our minds,” Ercole Orlanda affirms. 

On the 28th there is a call from a certain Mario, who says he has a bar near Vittorio Bridge. A frequent customer at the bar is a girl who has run away from home, tired of the family routine. She plans to return in summer for the wedding of a sister.

On July 3, before the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, John Paulo II says: “I deliver my prayer to the Lord so that Emanuela can return home soon, unharmed, and embrace the loved ones who await her with indescribable pain.” [2]


The American


On July 5 a man with an Anglo-Saxon accent (here forth the American) phones the Vatican. He claims to have Emanuela as hostage: “For the return of the girl the pope must obtain the liberation of Agca from the Italian government before July 20,” “other information has been given by elements of the organization that responds to the names of Pierlujigi and Mario”, “further contacts will be acknowledged by a password of three figures: 158”.

The American also calls the Orlandi family. Emanuela’s uncle Mario Meneguzzi listens to a taped message. Among other things, it says seven times: “I would be entering the third year at the school this year.” Mario recognizes the voice of his niece. He adds: “Vatican officials will be in contact with you.”

On  July 6, Ercole goes to see the prefect of the pontifical house, Dino Monduzzi, to see if a message has arrived in relation to his daughter. The prefect asks the acting Secretary of State Martinez Somalo. He says no. Only after the insistence of Monduzzi does Marinez Somalo admit that there was a call. “But absolutely nothing they said or wanted could be understood,” the high prelate minimized.

The same day, a young man calls the news room of Ansa, the national information agency: “We have had a contact with the Vatican Secretary, a message that the Vatican is hiding.” In the Parliament square, in a rubbish bin, “you will find the proof that the girl is in our hands.”

The editor of Ansa goes to the indicated place and finds a photocopy of the music school identity card, the receipt for an exam fee, the number of the Orlandi family’s telephone, and a written phrase: “With great affection, your Emanuela.”

On July 7, a new call from the American provides various details about the missing  girl, among them her interest in a music classmate (Alberto), who the family knew nothing about.

On day 8, an unknown person with a southern accent calls the house of a music classmate, Laura Casagrande, with a message that should be delivered to Ansa: “We have taken the citizen Emanuela Orlandi only because she belongs to the Vatican State,” “Vatican officials and investigators of the Italian Republic tend to discredit the true nature of the demand, reducing negatively the time available for our negotiations,” “we are not a revolutionary or terrorist organization, we have never described ourselves as such. We consider ourselves people interested only in liberating Agca,” “the deadline is July 20.”

A man with a foreign accent asks Ansa if Laura had sent them the message: “It is proof that Emanuela is fine. She is the one who has given us the telephone number of her friend.” The individual says “in confidence” that Agca, once free and by his own means, if he wants, should make his way to an East German city, Brandenburg.”

The same day, escorted by a group of agents, Agca appears in the patio of police headquarters in Rome. Before a mob of journalists, photographers and TV cameramen Agca declares himself against the kidnapping of Emanuela: “I am against this criminal action.” He also says: “I committed the attack with the complicity of Antonov, I have been many times in Bulgaria. The attack against the pope was organized by the KGB.” [3]

The defence lawyers of Antonov, Giuseppe Consolo and Adolfo La Russa, strongly protest this press conference allowed a convict, condemned to life imprisonment and in a state of supposed solitary confinement. [4]

On July 10, the editors of the Paese Sera receive three calls. The caller, with an Anglo-Saxon accent, says the organization is not interested in a ransom, only the liberation of Agca. A note written by Emanuela to her parents can be found in the airport chapel. In effect, on the altar there is a photograph with the reverse side of the music school card and a handwritten message: “Dear Mama and Papa, don’t worry about me, I’m all right.” [5]

On July 11, in an undesignated area, there is a meeting with Vincenzo Parisi, Assistant Director of the SISDE, and Dino Monduzzi, prefect of the pontifical house. Years later, Parisi (admitting that the meeting was kept secret for ten years) declared that “a sophisticated operation of disinformation and distraction” surrounded the Orlandi case, [6] to which Vatican circles were not excluded. Asked about that meeting, Monduzzi will say that it never happened.

On July 14, a call for Carla De Blasio, friend of Emanuela, contains a message that should be delivered to Ansa: “In St. Peter’s Square, toward the Angelus window, we are leaving a tape, addressed to certain technicians who have considered the first one false.” Informed by Carla’s mother, Ansa journalists go to St. Peter’s Square but find nothing.

On June 17, a phone call to the Ansa office reports on a tape wrapped in a manifesto that is on the stairway that goes from Dataria Street to Quirinal Square: “The tape of which we spoke to Mrs. De Blasio was recovered by Vatican officials. The one this afternoon is a reply to the technicians who examined the first tape.”

The tape is recorded on both sides.  On the first, amid sobs and moans, these words are heard: “But, why are you doing this to me?...Oh God, but what is it? Blood! I feel bad, My God, I’m hurt.” “It is the voice of Emanuela,” says her uncle. On the other side, declarations of earlier messages are repeated.

On July 18, through Ansa agency, there is a reminder about the deadline.

On day 19, the American speaks by telephone with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli. He demands that the Rome daily newspapers publish in full a taped communiqué. It denounces the distortion of the Italian investigators and the backup work of Vatican diplomacy. It demands the liberation of Agca “independently of his publicly-expressed position.” [7]

Later, the American calls Ansa. He reports on the conversation with Cardinal Casaroli and reminds about the deadline. He also calls the Orlandi family. The newspapers must publish the communiqué.

On July 20, at the end of his general audience, John Paul II prays an Ave Maria in Latin for the missing young girl. Immediately after, a violinist plays Schubert’s Ave Maria.

At mid-day, a caller with a foreign accent orders the monks of Santa Francisca Romana church to deliver a message to Ansa. Among other things, it says: “with July 20 approaching  we do not lose hope in the will of those who can adopt a last gesture toward a solution.” A call to the Ansa newsroom confirms that the monks had transmitted the message and warns: “Today is the last message before the deadline of the ultimatum expires.”

On July 21, two identical letters arrive at the offices of Ansa and the Messaggero. The letters, without signature and written in German, come from Frankfurt and the postmark is July 17. “We again warn the Italian and Vatican authorities. Free Mehmet Ali Agca, Sedar Celebi and other friends of ours immediately! Otherwise, there will be further punitive actions as with Emanuela Orlandi! Furthermore you are all within reach.” [8] Celebi is president of the federation of idealistic Turkish immigrants with headquarters in Frankfurt, where the extreme-right organization Grey Wolves has a solid base.

On July 22, Emanuela’s uncle announces that henceforth all statements related with the case must be made by the lawyer Gennaro Egidio. Ten years later, Ercole Orlandi will say that the name of the lawyer had been suggested by the SISDE agent Gianfranco Gramendola, who will deny it. Nevertheless, Ercole replies, “To demonstrate that what I say is true, you only have to check that we haven’t paid Egidio a single lira, and that the economic question was already resolved before they made me sign the document prepared by the SISDE for the naming of the lawyer.” [9]

On July 25, the daily La Stampa recalls that the lawyer Egidio, expert on matters of finance and international law, has been council to the IOR in a London court for the bankruptcy of the Ambroian Bank.

A month later, before an English court, the lawyer Egidio had aided Ugo Flavoni, a Rome antiquarian who found himself in trouble. On June 18, 1982, the day that Calvi was found hanged, the Sardinian businessman Flavio Carboni met with the antiquarian at London’s Gatwick Airport to deliver to him the letter from Calvi, filled with important documents, and a bunch of keys. [10]

On July 27, following the general audience, John Paul II invites those faithful to pray an Ave Maria for the missing Emanuela. Ercolel Orlandi recalls: “That same day the Holy Father, before leaving by helicopter for Castelgandolfo, had Msgr. Monduzzi bring us together. Wojtyla embraced us, began to cry and told us that our daughter had been kidnapped by an international terrorist organization. But, contrary to what is often said in the newsspapers, he did not mention the KGB.” [11]


Frente Turkes


            On August 4, a communiqué from a group called Frente Turkes reaches the Milan office of Ansa. In poor Italian it says that Emanuela will be executed on October 30 if Agka is not freed before then. As proof of having the girl in its power, these details are given: in the year 1974 she had a crisis from being allergic to milk; her friends are three young people with black hair; at 13-and-a-half, a nervous crisis; she went to church on April 22; six moles on her back.

            María, the mother of Emanuela, comments: “She never liked milk, but I don’t recall her having an allergic crisis. Emanuela has four or five friends here in the Vatican, all with dark hair. As a child she was never nervous and, therefore, had no nervous crisis. She went often to church, but April 22 was a Friday, and on that day of the week she never went. I have never counted the moles on her back, but she had a lot.”

            Later it was learned that she had attended mass on April 22. It was the anniversary of the death of Cardinal Felici, titular of St. Apollinaire, and she was in the choir.

The Turkish embassy in Rome and authorities in Ankara said that the Frente Turkes was completely unknown. However, perhaps not completely, if one thinks of Alparsan Turkes, chief of the nationalist movement party, whose para-military formations are the Grey Wolves. The party was disbanded after the coup of Gen. Kenan Evren. Still, the CIA was favorable to an alliance between the supporters of Gen. Evren and the Turkes party. Celebi, protector of Agca, was Turkes’s trusted contact. [12]

On August 8, a second communiqué from Frente Turkes arrives at Ansa, in which the pope is asked to say the following words on Sunday: “Ali Agca is a human being as is Emanuela Orlandi, and (he should be) treated as such.” It recommends that the  communiqué be read on television. If the parents want data about Emanuela, ask things that only she and they know.

On August 10, Licio Gelli, grand master of the P2 lodge, escapes from the Swiss  prison of Champ Dollon, where he has been held since September 13.

On August 13, a third communiqué from the Frente Turkes says “not publishing the message favours those who want the elimination of Emanuela”. They provide this detail: “she had dinner on June 20 at home with close family members.” They criticize Kenan Evren, president of Turkey.

On August 28, John Paul II prays for Emanuela Orlandi and for Mirella Gregori, an Italian girl who also had been kidnapped (on May 7 in Rome). And he adds: “as always, I pray for the person who was my attacker.” The pope does not read the words dictated by the Frente Turkes, but he does mention Agca.

On the same day there is a rumour about a typewritten message from Emanuela to her parents. It is considered totally false.

On September 1, an anonymous letter arrives at the Ansa newsroom in Milan, sent from the Swiss city of Olten, clearly by a Turkish-speaking person: “Those who have kidnapped Emanuela Orlandi are of the Turkish cultural organization in Switzerland. The kidnapping was planned by the president of the same organization. The attack on the pope was also carried out by them: Serdar Celebi, Agca, Omer Bagci, the president of the Turkish organization in turkey Ilyas Kaya… I do my duty. It is your decision to believe this message or not. In my opinion Emanuela  too could be in Switzerland. Regards. Address of the organization Grey Wolves in Olten: Turk Kultur Ocgi, Tannwalt Str. 40, CH 4600-Olten. The author of the notice G.F.B.T.B.” [13]   

Sunday, September 4. Two manuscript pages are found in the van of a television crew that is at Castelgandolfo to tape the words of the pope. The distortion of information by the Vatican is denounced and it is affirmed that Vatican and Italian officials are behind the messages of the Frente Turkes.

That same day, the American  calls the Ansa newsroom in Rome. They have left a message in a yellow bag inside a rubbish bin on Porta Angelica Street: a taped recording, the photocopies of a music page with writing, telephones and addresses of friends of Emanuela and four, small mysterious stones.

The taped message refutes the communiqués of the Frente Turkes. Operation Agca has finished “by all effects”. The final words of the American to the Ansa editors are enigmatic. “They’ve told me to tell you that in the area of St. Francesca Romana basilica the pontiff celebrates the way of the cross”.

It is a tragic message. The area around the basilica is searched, in case the body of Emanuela would be there, but nothing is found.

That same day, two new calls reach the Ansa newsroom. In the first one, a “matter of state” is cited as responsible for Emanuela’s via crucis because the July 20 deadline for the freeing ofAgca has not been accepted. In the second, notice is given that, in the actual situation, messages would not be sent to public opinion but eminent individuals of the Vatican. It also says: “the pope has had a negative attitude”, “the Agca operation has finished”.

On September 8, the mother of Mirella, the Italian girl also missing, receives a letter in which the public intervention of the President of the Republic, Sandro Pertini, is requested. Four days later, an unknown person with a foreign accent, makes a telephone call to the Gregori’s bar, insisting on the same thing.

On September 22 a fourth communiqué from Frente Turkes arrives at Ansa’s Milan bureau: “All is not lost,” it says. And it provides data about Emanuela that “must not be revealed to the press under any pretext”. The family confirms that the data are exact. Again there is a criticism of Turkish President Kenan Evren.

Italian-American Mafia

On September 24, a call to the Ansa agency reveals that a message has been left at the church on Regina Margherita Street. The message bears a signature that appears for the first time: Phoenix. It is a warning for P and M, that is, Pierluigi and Mario: “one of them had committed the mistake of bragging about taking part in the move that has been very simple and rapid with the aid of a personal lady friend. The second act – Turkish farce – is not related directly to the first. The move of the youngster Emanuela Orlandi has been performed for other reasons,” “in the event of a failed or incomplete obedience to what is being demanded, the sentence will be carried out.” [14]

On September 27, Richard Roth, CBS correspondent in Rome who has done all the reports on the Orlandi case for his network in the United States, receives a handwritten letter from Boston. It repeats the demands for the liberation of the imprisoned Agca, Celebi and Bagci.

The same day, a letter arrives dated September 19, sent from Phoenix (USA) to the editors of the second television news program. It says that they have decided to put an end to this “boastful Turkish farce” that has gone on too long. It also includes a clear, Mafia-style warning: “Pierluigi, it’s very dangerous to be in that restaurant with your back to the door, because there are many drafts; an old friend of ours has had an ugly end before a dish of spaghetti. We generously want to remind Mario that in the pine grove there is plenty of space to foment the vegetation. The lady friend who you have betrayed can Atone for her own sins, because a confession today is better than a death tomorrow. To every element implicated it is useful to remind them that they can be located wherever they are. Order N.Y.A.D.C.”

Phoenix is the city where capos of Mafia families usually get together. The message could have been sent by the Italian-American Mafia.

On October 4, a week after the letter sent to the journalist Richard Roth, lab experts reveal that the letter is authentic and has been written by the same hand that wrote the message left on September 4 in the TV van at Castelganfolfo.

On October 8, the fourth message from Phoenix arrives: “It is our business to put an end to the Orlandi situation. Latest detailed information received we direct our personal warning to those directly responsible so that the natural conditions for the freeing of the youth Emanuela Orlandi be re-established immediately. In the event of a failed obedience to what is being demanded we will cut out from the roots that pseudo-organization that, besides being guilty of other situations, is the cause of disagreeable inconveniences. Decisions taken by the Phoenix council are irrevocable and our patience has reached its limit.” The message is found in the confessional of a church in San Silvestre Square, according to a reporter of the editorial staff of Corriere della Sera.

The same day, the President of the Republic, Sandro Pertini, receives Mrs. Gregori, mother of Mirella. Days later he also receives the lawyer Egidio.

On October 20, President Pertini grants an interview to Ansa Agency in which he states: “I have always maintained an extremely firm line in the fight against terrorism, against all negotiation or concession,” “today, without departing from this line, before anguished pleas of the families, and in particular Mrs. Gergori, mother of Mirella, I send an invitation to the kidnappers to release immediately these girls, and I formulate the wish that a ray of mercy illuminate their spirits.”

On October 22, the families of Gregori and Orlandi, through the lawyer Egidio, ask the press to be silent about everything related to the disappearance of the girls.

On November 13, a Rome daily is alerted to a new message from Phoenix the center of Rome, on the cuesta San Sebastianello. According to the message, Emanuela has been assassinated and those responsible have committed a grave injustice to a young life” and “a lack of respect and obedience.” [15]

On Christmas Eve the pope visits the parents of Emanuela. A few days later, on December 27, he visits Agca in the Rome prison of Rebibbia: “What we talked about is a secret between him and me,” says the pope.

Secret Report

            A secret report, dated November 14, 1983, which will not be made public for another twelve years, analyzes the messages about the disappearance of Emanuela received between July 5 and October 24. The report was drawn up largely by Vincenzo Parisi, then acting head of SISDE, the Italian secret service.

            There are a total of 34 messages. Six of them are certainly fraudulent, 4 are of difficult attribution, 8 communiqués (four each) are signed by two supposed groups (Frente Turkes and Phoenix), the remaining 16 “come most probably from the group that carried out and directly managed the kidnapping, or rather managed to get in contact with those truly responsible for the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi.”

            From the perspective of time, the report distinguishes four periods. The first (which we can place between June 22 and July 4) is characterized by “the absence of anyone claiming responsibility for the kidnapping.” Two people (Pierluigi and Mario) try to give credibility to the hypothesis of Emanuela running away from home.

            The second period (July 5 to 22) is characterized by the presence of anonymous intermediaries who claim to be spokesmen for an “organization” that is trying to obtain, through the kidnapping of the girl, “the liberation of Agca”.

During the third period (July 22 to September 4) contacts are broken and, at the end, “the first document (manuscript) composed by the presumed spokesman of the organization  appears.”

In the last period (the fourth), the messages arrive “mainly by letters sent from Boston and never on recorded tapes.”

The analysis of the 16 communications attributed to the presumed kidnappers of the Orlandi girl, leads one to think that “almost certainly they are the work of a single mind.” The report sketches a portrait of the leader of the kidnapping: “Foreigner, very possibly of Anglo-Saxon culture; high intellectual and cultural level; familiar with the Latin tongue and, it follows, of Italian; member (or in close contact with) the ecclesiastical world; serious, ironic, precise and orderly in composure, cold, calculating, full of himself, sure of his role and strength, sexually amorphous; has lived for a long period in Rome, knows very well all the city zones that have something to do with his activity; well informed about Italian judicial rules and above all the logistical structure of the Vatican.”

The report considers “highly plausible” the hypothesis that the leadership of the kidnapping of Emanuela was “inside ecclesiastical  hierarchy and order,” in effect, inside the Vatican. [16]

Different Interpretations

The disappearance of Emanuela is a complicated case. Even more, diabolical. There have been several interpretations. Here are some:

- The late Italian politician Giulio Andreotti minimized the case of Emanuela: “She is one of many girls missing in Italy after the war: the only one among Vatican residents. Unfortunately, in this type of event the mystery almost always remains.“ [17]

- Judge Severino Santiapichi doesn’t believe that it was a case of white slavery; “The police told me that Emanuela was taken to Arabia. Anyone who has been a few times in that country knows that it’s not necessary to kidnap girls there because there are thousands of them, and splendid besides, who go for money” [18]

- Judge Fernando Imposimato, defender of the Bulgarian plot, affirms that the disappearance of Emanuela is tied to the attack on the pope: “The assassination attempt on the pope was inspired by the KGB, prepared by the Bulgarian secret services with the collaboration of those Turks and perpetrated by Turks of the extreme right.”, “in a first stage, Agca not only showed willingness to collaborate with Italian investigators, but also revealed the role of the Bulgarians. Later, Emanuela Orlandi disappeared and Agca showed signs of madness, began to speak of the third secret of Fatima because he had captured the coded message launched by his accomplishes.” [19]

- Francesco Salerno, legal counsellor of the Holy See’s Prefecture of Economic Affairs, declared before judges Priore and Rando that the disappearance of Emanuela could constitute “an element of pressure in circles tightly linked to the papacy”. Salerno had occasion to express his conviction to Msgr. Fre, then adviser to the Secretary of State. But the matter seemed “irrelevant” to Msgr. Re. He said that “verification in that direction did not seem necessary to him.” [20]

- Judge Ilario Martella, who received a series of threats against his son and daughter-in-law while investigating the attack on the pope, states in an interview that there is a relation between the attack and kidnapping of Emanuela: “After the disappearance of Emanuela there is an event so serious that probably only a court of history will be suitable to judge.” And, looking straight at his interlocutor, he adds: “If I told you the things that I have discovered it would give you gooseflesh, as it did me. There are elements in the judicial acts that should be archived, because they are things that make you think.” He also speaks of “a mysterious trail that leads very high” [21]

- Examining magistrate Adele Rando will express “the confirmed belief” that the  politico-terrorist (Bulgarian trail) motive had been in reality “a clever operation to dissimulate the true motive of the Orlandi kidnapping”, “a motive probably destined to remain secret.” [22]

- For Prof. Francesco Bruno,  a collaborator with the Sisde and adviser to the Italian Interior Ministry, the disappearance of Emanuela served to direct a new warning to the Pope. The same happened regarding the attack: “Immediately it became clear that the attack was to serve as a warning and that it came from the West, not the East.” But Wojtyla did not get the message. Then “the same ones who had armed the hand of Agca intelligently plan the only action capable of setting conditions for it: kidnapping Emanuela Orlandi”, “in the case of Orlandi, the blackmail is even stronger, it affects the life of a young girl, the daughter of a man who is neighbour to the Pope.” According to the professor, Emanuela is dead: “She was killed immediately after the kidnapping, and very probably her killers have also been eliminated,” [23] , “only the immediate suppression of Emanuela after the kidnapping explains why her kidnappers never gave evidence that she was alive.”, “one can imagine that elements of the Magliana gang, whose members end up being assassinated, had intervened. Like Enrico de Pedis, who – strangely enough – is buried in a church. In the church next to Emanuela’s music school. [24]


Organized Crime


At the end of the 60s Marseille is the crossroads of the drug traffic between the Sicilian and American mafia. But at the beginning of the 70s French police break up refinery laboratories located around the port city, and the Marseille mafia moves to Italy, and especially to Rome.

In 1972, Giuseppe (Pippo) Caló, Sicilian mafia chief, also seeks refuge in the Italian capital. Wanted in his homeland, in Rome he will become an untouchable being, representative of the new business-oriented mafia, under whose umbrella the Sicilian gangs find an extraordinary accumulation of capital owing to the international drug traffic. The mafia is transformed into a company, with an aggressive and penetrating presence in those sectors where profits are greater and swifter: traditional construction and the tourist industry. The mafia chief will use two false names (Mario Aglialoro and Mario Salamandra), which will make his  identification difficult.

Around Pippo Caló gathers a circle of Rome delinquents, like Domenico Balducci, a finance hunter. Balducci contacts the Sardinian businessman Flabio Carboni, who displays as convincing credentials his good relations with the Vatican prelates and with Christian Democrat leaders. [25] Still, at the same time, Carboni belongs to the Magliana gang: he’s “the economist of the gang”. [26]

Established in Rome, the Marseille gangsters negotiate with Pippo Calo’s circle. He heads a complex organization that is weaving “close ties with the subversive right, secret service people and the freemasons.” [27]

In the mid-60s, the hegemony of the Marseille group diminishes and that of the Rome capos increases: “Up to that time, the Rome crowd, dedicated to crimes such as robbery, hold-ups and extortions, had left to foreign groups, like those from Marseille, the most lucrative business, from the drug traffic to the kidnapping of citizens. Once they are aware of the strength that is derived from associative ties, the Romanos take over the criminal trade, abandoning definitively the marginal role they had had.” [28]

Among the criminal organizations of Rome three stand out, known for the neighbourhood in which they operate: the Trastevere-Testaccio, of which Enrico De Pedis and Danilo Abbrucciati are part; the Acilia-Ostia, which has strong ties with the new Camorra organized by Raffaele Cutolo; and the Magliana gang, which has an important peculiarity: “it has contacts with the secret services, with which it cooperates in especially dirty operations.”

Members of the Magliana gang appear in investigations related to the P2, the Camorra mafia, the secret services, the kidnapping of Aldo Moro, the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli, and others. [29]

Almost all the members of the gang are assassinated. Enrico De Pedis is murdered on February 2, 1990. He is buried in Rome, in the Summer cemetery. But only a month later, he is granted a privilege that canonical law reserves for popes, cardinals and bishops. His corpse is transferred to the crypt of the St. Apollinaire basilica, next to Navona Square. The church forms part of a complex of four stories, in which the Pontifical Ateneo of the Holy Cross, of the Opus Dei, holds its formation courses (philosophy, theology, canonical law, journalism): “It was the vicar cardinal to the pope, Uko Poletti, on March 10, 1990, who granted the nihil obstat for the burial of Enrico De Pedis requested by Msgr. Piero Vergari, then rector of the basilica. [30]


Hidden Power


Ercole Orlandi will declare desolation and impotence: “We are victims of an obscure matter of state”, “our daughter has been kidnapped by an organization so efficient, so powerful, that it showed no fear of Italian investigators”. “It’s a very complicated tangle. In one of his calls, the American told us: It’s useless to register or attempt to intercept this communication, I can make the call appear in 15 different sites.” On one occasion, the investigators managed to decipher the first four digits of the phone where the call seemed to originate and, for whatever reason, it matched those of the United States embassy. [31]

Prof. Franceso Bruno makes this comment: “Whoever carried out the whole  Emanuela Orlandi operation was a team skilled in technology and possessing uncommon tactical wisdom. Professionals of a very high level”, “whoever did it has demonstrated a specific knowledge of the internal mechanisms of the Vatican, of the psychological aspects of the question and of the places and churches of Rome where the message could be found.  But I am also convinced that the Vatican  has been a fifth column.” [32]

Only an organization with a lot of power is capable of creating the judicial confusion, sidetracking the investigation and intoxicating information. Nevertheless, the perfect crime does not exist. Especially if several are committed in the same place: will  they all have something in common? Will the disappearance of Emanuela have something in common with other enigmas of the Vatican that mark the pontificate of John Paul II?

One point in common seems to be the scandals of the IOR-Ambrosian, their mutual business deals and subsequent rupture, after the arrest of Calvi in May, 1981. Like Sindona, Calvi was banker to the pope, the P2 and the mafia, a strange and explosive mixture. But it can be explained: “In the world of international banking, those who appear to be enemies in the light of day often seem as allies under cover of night”, “the right wing of the Christian Democrats…has been the protector of Vatican interests in Italy. However, since 1947, the Christian Democrats have also been partners with the mafia. That doesn’t mean that the Vatican or the Christian Democrats don’t condemn the actions of the mafia.” It means they have common interests. [33]

Within this framework, one cannot discount (among others) a grave, shameful  matter investigated by the judge of Trento, Carlo Palermo.  As mentioned before [34] , on November 24, 1982, judge Palermo issued arrest orders against two hundred people of diverse nationalities who worked for the circle of most important arms and drug traffickers of our time: “Thousands of millions of dollars, powerful banks, men of unassailable reputation, freemasons, high-ranking military officers, Vatican financiers, terrorists, murderers, intelligence services of both East and West.” [35] The principle accused “will later be implicated in the Calvi-Ambrosiano affairs and in the attack on Pope Wojtyla.” [36]

Judge Palermo says: “Eight years ago in my investigation of arms and drugs the same names as now had surfaced in coordination with a mysterious society, Tgs. The (Finance) expert told me: Tgs signifies Theodore G. Schackley, former CIA chief in Rome and head of the all CIA covert operations in the 1970s. From that lead, the names of other banks and also traces of the P2 appeared.” [37]

In the course of his investigation, in April of 1985, Judge Palermo suffered an attack on his life in Trapani (Sicily), where his colleague Giacomo Ciaccio Montalto had been assassinated in the first months of 1983.

As has already been denounced, it is “one of the bitter truths” of the actual international order (in reality, disorder). In the clandestine market of arms and drugs the use of personnel specialized in the use of violence becomes necessary for various reasons: protect investments and merchandize not protected by laws and official institutions, dissuade aggressive competitors, demand credits, eliminate witnesses and opponents, obtain respect for contracts. [38]

In the attack on the pope we cannot forget the change of attitude assumed by the Vatican in relation to the Calvi-Ambrosiano matter. Flavio Carboni declared before judge Rosario Priore: “Up to the moment of Calvi’s arrest, the Vatican, fully conscious of the strategy of the Ambrosian Bank, had supported the actions of the banker, who had provided considerable benefits. It was in the obstruction of such a strategy that Calvi placed the causes of the attack on the Pope.” [39]

Held in Lodi jail, Calvi told his wife and daughter that the IOR, the Vatican’s bank, had to be pressured. He put it on paper: “This trial is called IOR.” [40] . Anna Calvi heard her father say (raising his voice) during one weekend of May, 1982 that “the priests had to honor their commitments, because otherwise he would reveal all that he knew.” [41]

With the disappearance of Emanuela, are facing a new element of pressure on the pope?

In Geneva, May 25, 1984, the complicated business of the IOR-Ambrosian Bank reaches a financial conclusion. The IOR promises a “voluntary contribution” of more than 240 million dollars to creditors of the Ambrosian Bank.

There will be still more messages from Frente Turkes (August 21 to November 22 of 1984). As a condition for the liberation of Emanuela, Agca must be extradited to a country like Costa Rica or Panama. As proof that they have the young girl, they provide particular details which are substantially confirmed by her parents. [42]

As already stated, a lower court in Rome, presided by magistrate Severino Santiapichi, on November of 1986 dictates a sentence absolving the Bulgarians “for lack of sufficient evidence.” [43]

The trial of Agca, defended by the lawyer Marina Magistrelli, will end on June 13, 2000 with a pardon signed by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. But Emanuela has not appeared.

The former examining magistrate Germain Sengelin reveals another bitter truth  that should be remembered: “The agents with power of political decision have no interest in combating organized crime when it can become a matter of state.” [44]


Complicity Within the Vatican


On November 13, 1986, examining magistrate Ilario Martella requested cooperation from Vatican  authorities “because it appears absolutely useful and necessary, in terms of the law, to know if, in fact, telephone or written messages referring to the disappearance of the two girls have arrived at the Vatican City State.”

 The Secretary of State replied that “no judicial investigation had been made by Vatican courts since the events occurred outside the State’s territory”: “Material related to the case, occasionally received in the offices of the Holy See, were transmitted at the moment to the prosecutor, Dr. Sica.” But of this material not a trace will be found.

Likewise, on March 2, 1994, the examining magistrate Adele Rando will ask the Vatican for documents pertinent to the disappearance of Emanuela, as well as being able to hear the high prelates who have been in charge of the matter: Casaroli, Sodano, Re, Martinez Somalo, Monduzzi.

Vatican authorities reject the request. They adduced the pretext that questions were not formulated properly. Besides, “the possibility of the Italian judicial authority is not contemplated in concordat agreements.” [45]

In the course of the investigation, judge Rosario Priore interrogates Ercole Orlandi,  about an episode related with his job as an employee of the pontifical house, which took place three days before the attack on the Pope.

Sunday, May 10, 1981. In the afternoon, the Pope visits the parish of St. Thomas of Aquinas in Rome. In two of the photos taken by the Vatican photographer Arturo Mari, among the public, in the section reserved for invited guests, Ali Agca can be seen. Some parishioners noticed this after the attack. Two of them declared before judge Priore:

“Studying the photos, I noted the similarity between a person at the ceremony with the Pope’s aggressor, shown on TV news. The similarity was noticed not only by me but also by my wife and sister-in-law”, “the same afternoon, or the day after, a policeman  called at my home and said he was from the Digos (anti-terrorist police) and he asked for the photo, to be held in deposit, in which the aggressor’s look-alike appears”, “He told me not to speak of the matter with anyone,” says Daniele Petrocelli.  His wife points out: “There were two photos showing the aggressor,” “after a month, Digos returned only one,” “at that moment they told me that the person who looked like the aggressor had been identified by a security guard of the Holy See.”

Francisco Salerno, legal counsel for the Prefecture of Economic Affairs, made a statement before judge Priore about the photos: “I remember that Mari (the pontifical photographer) spoke to me about the photographs in which the Pope’s aggressor appears, photographs taken on occasions prior to the attack,” “he told me that there were photographs prior to the attack with the image of Agca.” [46]

The parish priest of the church, don Tondini, declared that there were around twenty people from the Prefecture of the pontifical house among the invited guests, some of them foreigners, and that the prefect of the pontifical house, Dino Monduzzi, had not given the parish the list of names of those invited.  

For his part, Ercole Orlandi declared before judge Priore: “In regards to the delivery of invitations to ceremonies and audiences, I must say that I have a good memory, and therefore would have remembered the name of Agca if I had delivered an invitation of that type to him,” “unless the request had been made by others or under false name,” “I  have on several occasions sent invitations to the (pension) Isa on Cicerone street, as are sent to other boarding houses and pensions of Rome.”

On July 22, 1993, the Rome newspaper Il tempo published a long statement by Vittoria Arzenton Gregori, mother of Mirella. The woman related what she had declared to the judge a few days before, on July 1, an episode that goes back to December 15, 1985, and which affects an employee of Vatican security.

“In December of 1985, the Pope visited the parish of St. Giuseppe, on Nomentana way, where I was married and where my children have been baptized and confirmed. The parish priest at that time wanted my husband and I to meet with the Pontiff and prepared everything for us to be received by him. He told us not to go through the church but to cross the sacristy, go upstairs, pass an ante-chamber and enter the place where the Pope awaited us. And we did so. But on the way we came across a man who I knew well, although only by sight. He was 35-40 years old, dark, agreeable aspect, who was seated every afternoon at the bar next to the door of our house.”

“Between us and the bar there was a food shop. This place was run by the parents of Mirella’s best girl friend, Sonia De Vito. Mirella and Sonia used to joke with that man, who I think lived nearby. Leaving the house, I often saw them exchanging a few words, and that’s how he also knew me well, and he knew that I was the mother of Mirella because he saw me with his daughter. Moreover, noting that he was there every afternoon, I wondered what type of job he could have had.

“And then, meeting him by chance in the parish of St. Giuseppe, I gave him a sign of greeting, but he went white and turned his head to one side so as not to be recognized. At the same time he could not contain a movement of surprise and of anger. I didn’t like that behaviour. I realized that the man wanted to avoid me, disappear,” “after the papal audience, that man did disappear, I did not see him again. He did not return to sit outside at the bar,” “this has made me reflect. I have deduced that the only possible link between the Vatican and my daughter was that man, that man who spoke to Sonia De Vito, my daughter’s best friend who has never wanted to tell us the whole truth about the last conversation with her. Yes, that man was a great friend of Sonia.”

After that fortuitous encounter, Mrs. Gregori inquired around about the man’s identity and discovered that he was Raul Bonarelli, chief superintendent of Vatican security. He was a parishioner of St. Giuseppe and lived with his family in the neighbourhood, on Alessandria street.

On October 13, 1993, examining magistrate Adele Rando questioned Bonarelli. He confirmed that he had accompanied the Pope on the visit to St. Giuseppe parish, but he denied what Mrs. Gregori had said or that he had chatted with Mirella and with Sonia. Then the judge faced him off against the mother of Mirella. Surprised, Mrs. Gregori did not recognize the man before her as the individual who sat at the bar. Nevertheless, the face-off came eight years later, the physiognomy could have changed and remembrances could have  faded. Besides, the woman was seriously ill. In fact, she died shortly after. [47] [

An important fact. Judge Adele Rando ordered Bonarelli’s home phone to be tapped prior to his interrogation. In one of the taped calls, the superintendent of the Vatican police asks his boss (probably the head of Vatican security, Camilo Cibin) what he should say to the magistrates about the Orlandi case: “Nothing,” the boss replies, “we don’t know anything, we know only what the newspapers say, what has been published abroad. The case has been outside (our) jurisdiction… it belongs to Italian matters.” Bonarelli insists: “Ah, is that what I should say?” The boss responds: “Eh…what do we know? If you say: I have not looked into the matte … The Service has investigated inside... this is something that went on later... don’t say that it went to the Secretary of State.”

From the tapped call two things can be deduced: 1) The Vatican carried out its own,  reserved investigation of the Emanuela case whose results were handed over to the Secretary of State; 2) Vatican security was determined to boycott the investigation of Italian courts with silences, omissions and lies.

On December 19, 1997, judge Rando concluded in the proceedings on the disappearance of Emanuela that Bonarelli is a suspect in the kidnapping of a person, even of two people. The investigation of these conclusions by the Italian magistrate is formally still  open. [48]

The suspicion of Vatican link is also held by the father of Emanuela: “I believe that the kidnappers had a spy that informed them about Vatican  citizens,” “perhaps it could be one that we know o see every day,” “it’s not easy to move around the Vatican asking questions if you are not known.” [49]

On October 7, 1997, Pietro Orlandi, brother of Emanuela, declared in an interview with Corriere della Sera: “They have always drawn close in prayer, but that is not enough.” In reality, “the Vatican has not come to the aid of one of its citizens.” [50]

In effect, prayer is not enough. The Vatican Chief of State must do justice to one of his citizens and cannot obstruct investigation of the kidnapping. In the end, what is he  hiding? The same attitude runs through the diverse enigmas that mark his pontificate, the attempt to block all investigation of a crime and shut the door on the search for truth: the strange death of John Paul I, who had decided to confront (with courage, above all) the freemasonry and the mafia; the IOR-Ambrosian scandal; the assassination attempt that John Paul II himself had suffered; the assassination of Calvi; the disappearance of Emanuela; the triple crime of the Swiss Guards; the international arms and drug traffic whose principle accused, according to the Palermo judge, are implicated in Calvi-Ambrosiano affairs and the attack on Pope  Wojtyla. [51] [51]

[1] NICOTRI, P., Mistero vaticano. La scomparsa di Emanuela Orlandi, Kaos Edizioni, Milan, 2002, 13-27.

[2] NICOTRI, 31-37; see FORTICHIARI, A., E’viva. La scomparsa di Emanuela Orlandi. Un’inchiesta, Marco Tropea Editore, Milan 2003, 7-22.

[3] NICOTRI, 39-50; FORTICHIARI, 27-33.



[6] Sentenza istruttoria del giudice istruttore del Tribunale di Roma Adele Rando, 19 Dec. 1997, p. 84;  NICOTRI, 54.

[7] NICOTRI, 56-64; FORTICHIARI, 34-38


[9] NICOTRI, 69; see FORTICHIARI, 53-54..

[10] See PIAZZESI-BONSANTI, 187;  A apriest of ALMERIGHI, M., I banchieri di Dio. Il caso Calvi, Ed. Riuniti, Rome, 2002, 139-140.

[11] NICOTRI, 71-74

[12] PALERMO, 89-99.

[13] NICOTRI, 73-86; FORTICHIARI, 70-81.

[14] NICOTRI, 86-94.

[15] NICOTRI, 94-99; FORTICHIARI, 70-94.

[16] See Il Messaggero, 7 May1995; FORTICHIARI, 101-105; NICOTRI, 100 and 178-181

[17] See Corriere della Sera, 6 May1998; FORTICHIARI, 255.


[19] See the weekly magazine of Corriere della Sera, Sette, 22 May 1997; FORTICHIARI, 238-239.

[20] NICOTRI, 194.

[21] See Il Messaggero, 20 June 1993; FORTICHIARI, 182; NICOTRI, 53.

[22] Sentenza istruttoria del giudice istruttore Adele Rando, p. 90. NICOTRI, 117.

[23] See interview in Il Messaggero, 23-3-1995;  NICOTRI, 190-191.

[24] FORTICHIARI, 190-193 and 270-271.

[25] Sentenza-ordinanza del giudice istruttore di Roma Otello Lupacchini, 13 August 1994; GIANNI FLAMINI, La banda della Magliana, Kaos Edizioni, Milan, 2002, 11-12.

[26] Statement of Antonio Mancini, capo of the Magliana gang, to the Rome prosecutor  (21-April-1994). See ALMERIGHI, 87.

[27] Sentenza-ordinanza del giudice istruttore di Roma Gianfranco Viglietta, 25 June 1986; FLAMINI, 12-13.

[28] Sentenza-ordinanza del giudice istruttore di Roma Lupacchini, cit.; FLAMINI, 18.

[29] Sentenza-ordinanza del giudice istruttore di Bologna Leonardo Gras, 3 August 1994; FLAMINI, 21-22; FORTICHIARI, 193-194.

[30] FORTICHIARI, 194-195.

[31] See L’ Indipendente, 10 and 11 April 1994; FORTICHIARI, 202.

[32] Ib., 193.

[33] Chapter 4, Banker to the Pope, the P2 and the mafia.

[34] Chapter 8, Atlantic trail.

[35] STERLING, 121-122.

[36] See article byf Carlo Palermo in the weekly Avvenimenti, 2 Oct. 1991; DE ANGELI, Le guide di Mafia connection, I, 173.

[37] ROTH, 25; DE ANGELI, Le guide di Mafia connection, 111, 663-664.

[38] DE ANGELI, Le guide di Mafia connection, 111, 691-693; see PINO ARLACCHI, Armi e droga. L’ atto d’accusa del giudice Carlo Palermo, Editori Riuniti, Rome.

[39] NICOTRI, 141.

[40] Chapter 4, Calvi en prison.

[41] Chapter 4, Bankruptcy of the Ambrosian Bank.

[42] NICOTRI, 109-110.

[43] See chapter 8, Insufficient evidence.

[44] ROTH, 35; see Chapter 4,  State Secret.

[45] NICOTRI, 161-161.

[46] NICOTRI, 127-135; FORTICHIARI, 222-225.

[47] NICOTRI, 166 and 174-177.

[48] NICOTRI, 166-168;  FORTICHIARI, 247-248.

[49] Interview with Ercole Orlandi in 30 Giorni, May 1992. NICOTRI, 181.

[50] NICOTRI, 192.

[51] Chapter 8, Atlantic trail.