Pope Francis calls ‘insinuations’ against John Paul II unfounded

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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday rejected as offensive and baseless what he called insinuations from a Vatican schoolmate who died 40 years ago about one of his predecessors as pontiff, Saint John Paul II.

Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican usher, failed to return home on 22 June 1983 after a music lesson in Rome. At that time she was 15 years old and lived with her family inside the Vatican. Her disappearance is one of Italy’s most enduring mysteries.

The case entered a new chapter on Tuesday when her brother Pietro met with the Vatican’s chief prosecutor Alessandro Diddi, who gave Francis free rein to get to the bottom of the case.

After speaking with Diddi for more than eight hours, Pietro Orlandi appeared on a television program where he played part of an audio recording with the voice of a man who Orlandi said was part of an organized crime group that the Italian media has speculated for decades. that could have been. involved in his sister’s disappearance.

The voice of the alleged gangster says that more than 40 years ago, girls were brought to the Vatican to be molested and that Pope John Paul knew about it.

Orlandi then said in his own words on the show: “They tell me Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II’s last name) used to go out in the evening with two Polish Monsignors and it was certainly not to bless houses”.

The comments caused a storm and were condemned by Vatican officials in the past few days before the Pope himself entered the fray in his midday address to around 20,000 people in St Peter’s Square.

“Certainly I am interpreting the feelings of the faithful from all over the world, I express a grateful thought towards the memory of Saint John Paul, who in these days has been the object of offensive and baseless insinuations,” Francis said. .

The mostly Italian crowd rose in applause.

Diddi called Pietro Orlandi’s lawyer, Laura Sgro, on Saturday. The Vatican said it invoked attorney-client privilege. Sgro told Reuters on Sunday that John Paul did not come up in her conversation with Diddi, and added in a message: “I never asked about the sanctity of John Paul II”.

Orlandi told Reuters on Sunday by telephone that it was “correct that Francis defended John Paul II”. Orlandi added that during the televised appearance he was “repeating what others had said. I certainly didn’t see it myself”.

The editorial director of the Vatican, Andrea Tornielli, previously condemned Orlandi’s comments as a “sleazy” vilification of the pontiff, who led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005 and was declared a saint in 2014.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was the secretary of John Paul during his leadership, called Orlandi’s actions “ignoble, unrealistic, laughable if not tragic, even criminal”.

In the last four decades graves have been opened, bones have been exhumed from forgotten grave sites and we see conspiracy theories in attempts to determine what happened to Emanuela Orlandi.

The case, which has been the subject of ‘on-off’ investigations in Italy and the Vatican, has attracted new worldwide attention following the release late last year of the Netflix series “Vatican Girl”. .

She would be 55 now.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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