Opposition lawmakers in Italy are seeking a parliamentary commission of inquiry into three cold cases that have consumed the Italian public's imagination for decades, including the 1983 disappearance of a 15-year-old that was highlighted in the Netflix documentary Vatican Girl. The aim of the inquest, said Sen. Carlo Calenda, would be to pressure the Vatican to finally turn over everything it knows about Emanuela Orlandi's disappearance to Italian law enforcement authorities, saying its long-standing official claim of ignorance was "hardly credible." Orlandi vanished June 22, 1983, after leaving her family's Vatican City apartment to go to a music lesson in Rome. Her father was a lay employee of the Holy See.
The Italian media and a quest by her brother, Pietro Orlandi, to find answers have kept her disappearance alive as an enduring Vatican mystery. Over the years, it has been linked to everything from the plot to kill St. John Paul II and a financial scandal involving the Vatican bank to Rome's criminal underworld. The recent four-part Netflix documentary explored those scenarios. "We are a great secular nation that treats the Vatican with respect, but this case certainly cannot be considered closed in this way," Calenda said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the proposed commission, per the AP.
Lawmakers and lawyers for Orlandi's family and those of two other young women whose disappearance or deaths were never solved said Tuesday that the proposal for a commission of inquiry has been submitted to the lower Chamber of Deputies for an initial view and also would be filed in the Senate. The idea must be voted on at the committee level. There was no indication how the center-right, which enjoys a comfortable majority in both houses, would vote. Parliamentary inquests have been used in the past to dig deeply into unresolved Mafia crimes and terrorist attacks, and can be activated to conduct investigations "on matters of public interest," according to the Italian Constitution.
Such inquiries are not meant to replace police investigations, but participating members of the Italian Parliament have the same powers and limitations as law enforcement. Their final reports can provide sufficient new evidence, as well as political and institutional backing, to justify reopening archived cases. Calenda acknowledged a parliamentary inquest has no subpoena power to compel Vatican authorities to cooperate or turn over files, since the Vatican is a sovereign city-state. But he said parliament should nevertheless force the issue, as Italy has been "submissive" to the Vatican through the various contours of the Orlandi investigation. (The Vatican in 2019 bowed to the family's request and opened a tomb in a Vatican City cemetery after a tip came in suggesting the girl's remains were there.)