At Vatican, empty tombs add new twist to missing girl mystery

People open a tomb in a cemetery on the Vatican's grounds

People open a tomb in a cemetery on the Vatican's grounds

In a statement released after just a couple hours of work, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said the operation had "produced negative results: no human findings or funerary urns were found" in either of the tombs - neither any remains appearing to belong to a teenager from the 1980s, nor any belonging to the 19th century princesses.

In March, the Orlandi family's lawyer revealed the family had been sent a letter with a photo of an angel above a tomb in the Vatican cemetery.

After 36 years of looking for his missing sister, Pietro Orlandi had hoped to finally get an answer when the Vatican exhumed two tombs nestled in the shadow of Saint Peter's Basilica.

She was the daughter of a servant of then Pope John Paul II with Vatican citizenship, who vanished at the age of 15 in central Rome in 1983.

Orlandi's family received an anonymous letter previous year that told them to "search where the angel looks", along with a picture of an angel statue in the Teutonic Cemetery, located inside the Vatican.

Not only did the tombs not contain Emanuela, they also did not contain two princesses thought to be buried there.

There was no trace of either Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, or Princess Carlotta Federica of Mecklenburg, who died in 1840. Inside it, no human remains were found.

"Much depends on the environmental conditions, on the microclimate in which they are found, on the humidity, on the presence of infiltrations, on possible actions of microfauna", he said. According to an order of the Promoter of Justice of Vatican City State, the aim is to ascertain whether or not the remains of Emanuela Orlandi are contained there.

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Orlandi's mother still lives in Vatican City, close to the Teutonic Cemetery. Scientific testing ruled out that the remains were Orlandi's.

Exhumation work began this morning on the two tombs, but officials were left bewildered to find the two tombs empty.

"The tomb had obviously been recently opened, there was new cement on it, but we didn't know why or when, we were given no information", Sgro told CBS News.

Both graves were opened due to their proximity to one another and to "avoid possible misunderstandings about which grave is the indicated grave", a Vatican tribunal said.

In the interview, published July 10, Arcudi emphasized the need for careful analysis of the remains in the tombs before knowing if they could provide answers to the Orlandi case, which has remained unsolved for more than three decades.

"They found nothing, not even the remains of those who were meant to officially be buried there, " said the missing girl's brother, Pietro Orlandi.

The Vatican's next step following the discovery, Gisotti explained, will be to look into documentation about structural renovations that took place in the cemetery at the end of the 1800s and in the 1960s and '70s.

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