VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò is shedding new light on the disappearance of Emmanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a lay Vatican Bank official, who on the evening of June 22, 1983, vanished after leaving her home inside Vatican City to attend a music lesson across the Tiber.
In a Nov. 1 interview, Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli asked the Vatican whistleblower to recount his experience of the case.
At that time, Viganò, a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, was stationed at the Secretariat of State. He told Valli that not long after Orlandi's disappearance, he was contacted by Fr. Romeo Panciroli, director of the Vatican Press Office, who notified him that Orlandi had been kidnapped and that specific demands were being set for her return.
"It was about 8 p.m., or perhaps later, when I received a phone call from Fr. Romeo Panciroli ... who announced that an anonymous phone call [said] that Emanuela Orlandi had been kidnapped," Viganò recalled. "Father Panciroli told me that he would immediately fax me a text with the contents of the call."
The caller "stated that Emanuela Orlandi was held by them and that her release was linked to a request, the fulfillment of which did not necessarily depend on the will of the Holy See," the archbishop continued. "It was a message formulated in precise and well-constructed terms."
Viganò passed the fax on to his superior, the late Cdl. Achille Silvestrini, who after reading the message dismissed it as simply a "bad joke."
The unidentified male caller phoned several more times, asking to speak with Vatican Secretary of State Cdl. Agostino Casaroli. Some calls were answered first by Viganò, who then transferred them on to Cdl. Casaroli.
Owing to his foreign accent, the man came to be nicknamed "the American." But according to Viganò, the accent seemed to come from someplace other than the United States — perhaps Malta.
"It is undoubtedly available in the archive of the Secretariat of State," he added.
Valli pressed the point, noting that reportedly, "the text of that phone call is kept in the archive of the Secretariat of State."
"Now," he asked, "wouldn't it be a sign of transparency to make it known? Why does it remain secret?"
"Of course, the text of that phone call, the note I received from Fr. Panciroli, must be in the archive of the Secretariat of State," Viganò responded. "I don't know if it was ever given to Italian investigators. I would wonder if it hadn't been done."
Various theories have been put forward as to what may have happened to Orlandi.
In 2012, the late Fr. Gabriel Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome, suggested she was likely kidnapped and killed by members of a Vatican sex abuse ring.
On Wednesday, Vatican journalist Robert Moynihan hypothesized that Orlandi's disappearance is connected with the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II — that she may have been "a pawn in an effort to free the Turkish gunman arrested in connection with that attempt, Ali Agca."
"In other words," he posited, "Emanuela may have been kidnapped in order to 'trade' her freedom for Agca's freedom."
Whoever was responsible for her disappearance, Moynihan noted, Abp. Viganò "thinks the probability is that, in order to ensure that she would never speak and so help to reveal her captor's identities, she was at some point killed by her kidnappers."
Asked by Valli if Vatican officials ever launched an internal investigation over Orlandi's disappearance, the archbishop was doubtful. "I've never heard of it," he said. "Only the superiors of that time would be able to say."