Bones found, tombs empty: mystery deepens in missing Vatican girl saga

Two sets of bones have been found in a stone slab, a tomb expected to have bones in it is empty and the remains of a Vatican schoolgirl missing since 1983 continue to elude searchers.

The empty tomb in the cemetery of the Pontifical Teutonic College was supposedly the last resting places of two 19th-century German princesses, Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe and Duchess Charlotte Frederica.

According to a tipoff, the tomb also supposedly housed the remains of 15 year-old Emanuela Orlandi.

Not only were the princesses’ remains absent from the tomb, there was no sign of Orlandi’s remains there either.

However, it is thought the bones in the stone slab probably belong to the German princesses. The slab will be formally opened this week.

The Vatican has promised to keep investigating Orlandi’s disappearance.

It also noted that any bones in the tombs might have been displaced during structural work carried out on both the college building and a cemetery near St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1800s and in more recent decades.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti says the area where the bones were found was immediately sealed off. It will be opened in the presence of forensic experts later this week.

Gisotti says the bones were found in two holes carved out of a large stone that was covered by an old pavement stone a few meters behind the princesses’ tombs.

That area is now technically inside a building of the Teutonic College, after expansion work on the building encroached onto the cemetery field.

The last recorded structural work done on the building and the cemetery was in the 1960s and 1970s. Orlandi disappeared in 1983.

The mystery of Orlandi’s disappearance has been kept alive by the Italian media and her brother Pietro Orlandi’s quest to find answers.

Pietro Orlandi has long demanded the Vatican give the family full access to all information it has about his sister’s disappearance.

The family’s lawyer, Laura Sgro, says she had been informed of the discovery of the bones on Saturday and that the family was pleased the investigation was continuing.

Gisotti says the Holy See “has always shown attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family and in particular Emanuela’s mother”.

Its decision to excavate the Teutonic cemetery at the family’s request was evidence of that attention, he says.

Orlandi’s disappearance has been one of Italy’s biggest unsolved mysteries and the subject of international intrigue, including suspicion about the Vatican’s role, since it occurred.



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