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Coroners and medical technicians swarmed the crypt of a Roman basilica to exhume the body of a reputed mobster as part of an investigation into one of the Vatican’s enduring mysteries: the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the teenage daughter of a Vatican employee.
The stench of sewage filled the courtyard next to Rome’s Sant’Apollinare basilica where Enrico De Pedis was buried. Medical personnel in white pantsuits and masks milled about under a blue tent where his body was believed to have been taken for initial tests.
De Pedis, a member of Rome’s Magliana mob, was killed in 1990. His one-time girlfriend has reportedly said he kidnapped Orlandi, and an anonymous caller in 2005 told a call-in television show the answer to Orlandi’s disappearance lay in his tomb.
Amid a push to resolve the case, the Vatican said last month it had no objections to opening the tomb.
Emanuela Orlandi was 15 when she disappeared in 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.
It is widely rumoured she was kidnapped in a bid to keep her father silent about links between the Vatican Bank and organised crime.
Doubts have also been cast on whether the Vatican itself had cooperated fully with the investigation.
In a lengthy statement last month, Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi insisted the Holy See had done everything possible to try to resolve the case.
Outside the basilica, Orlandi’s brother, Pietro Orlandi, said the move to exhume the tomb was a step forward in the probe into his sisters’ disappearance.
“I think it’s something very positive, both from the point of view of the Vatican and the prosecutors,” he told reporters.
Speculation has long swirled around the location of De Pedis’ tomb, as it’s buried in a prominent church alongside prominent Catholics.
Sant’Apollinare church is next to the elegant Piazza Navona in Rome’s historic centre and adjacent to the Opus Dei-run Pontifical Holy Cross University.
Among those in the courtyard speaking with medical personnel was the rector of the basilica, Mgr Pedro Huidobro, who was in fact a coroner before being ordained a priest.
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