Pope Francis denounced the recent “offensive and unfounded” allegations against John Paul II after leading the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square on April 16, 2023. The Pontiff’s statement comes after the brother of Emanuela Orlandi, a young Vatican citizen who disappeared in 1983, suggested that John Paul II was guilty of sexual abuse and played a role in his sister’s disappearance.
“I direct a grateful thought to the memory of Saint John Paul II, the object of offensive and unfounded inferences these past few days,” Pope Francis said from the window of the Apostolic Palace, gathering applause from the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican employee, was 15 when she disappeared in the center of Rome nearly 40 years ago, on June 22, 1983. Since then various theories have emerged about what may have happened to her, even becoming the subject of a Netflix documentary, “Vatican Girl,” released in October 2022.
Recently, the Vatican’s judicial system agreed to reopen an investigation into her notorious disappearance.
The “inferences” by Pietro Orlandi
Francis’ defense came after a particularly eventful week in Rome regarding the Orlandi case. Last Tuesday, April 11, Emanuela Orlandi’s brother, Pietro, who has been fighting to shed light on his sister’s disappearance, spent eight hours with the Vatican’s promoter of justice (the chief prosecutor).
In the evening, Pietro Orlandi made some shocking statements on the Italian talk show ‘Di Martedì‘ on the La7 TV channel. He played an audio recording by a supposed member of a Roman organized crime group, which alleged that girls were brought into the Vatican and assaulted and that John Paul II was aware.
Pietro Orlandi then added that he heard that John Paul II would go out at night with two Polish “Monsignori” and that he was “certainly not going to bless houses,” suggesting the Polish Pope could have been involved in the exploitation of minors.
Several Church figures defended John Paul II
Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow and John Paul II’s former secretary, reacted strongly to Pietro Orlandi’s insinuations. He denounced the accusations as “rambling, false from beginning to the end, unrealistic, laughable bordering on comical if they were not tragic, indeed criminal themselves.”
“Although this media massacre saddens and dismays by wounding the hearts of millions of believers and non-believers alike, the defamation should be denounced because it is unworthy of a civilized country to treat any person, living or dead, whether cleric or layman, pope, metalworker or unemployed young man, in this way,” he wrote.
Pietro Orlandi and his lawyer defend themselves
On Saturday morning, April 15, Pietro Orlandi’s lawyer, Laura Sgrò, met with the promotor of justice at the Vatican. Shortly after Vatican Newspublished an article emphasizing that the lawyer and her client “refuse to name names” to back up the allegations against John Paul II.
“Neither Pietro Orlandi nor lawyer Laura Sgrò have seen fit to provide the promoter with names or useful elements regarding the sources of these claims and their credibility,” the unsigned article said. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, even stated in the text that Laura Sgrò had kept silent, invoking “professional secrecy.”
During the day, the lawyer quickly reacted by saying that the Vatican was pressuring her to violate her professional ethics – which the Vatican firmly denied on Saturday evening.
The lawyer also assured that a list of 28 names had been given by Pietro Orlandi to the promoter of justice during his hearing on April 11 and that her client remained “fully available” to provide other elements. Laura Sgrò justified her silence to the promoter of justice by assuring that it was her client’s responsibility, not hers, to provide information.
Pietro Orlandi told Reuters on April 16 that he was “repeating what others had said” during the Italian talk show and that it was “correct that Francis defended John Paul II.”
John Paul II was also recently criticized at the beginning of March after some allegations emerged that he mishandled sexual abuse cases as Archbishop of Krakow from 1964 to 1978. The information was presented in a documentary broadcast on the Polish TVN Channel, as well as a book by a Dutch journalist. The bishops of Poland reacted similarly on that occasion as the “source” was similarly suspect, in that case, not the mafia but Communist secret police records.