Apr 18, 2012

More Skeletons Tumble Out of the Vatican Closet

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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The Vatican is weighing in on the Mafia issue and has decided that the organization is immoral enough to merit their attention. They have taken their message promoting a "culture of dialogue and legality" straight to Sicily. Such tough talk marks a turning point for the Vatican which has traditionally been a little lenient when it came to organized crime.

The Catholic Church in Italy has often been accused of being too timid towards the Mafia.

Event organizer Bishop Antonino Raspanti admitted that the church "has not condemned strongly enough," the mafia in the past. But "things have changed," he said, and there is no doubt that the "Mafia is anti-human and anti-religious."

Just how timid? Well, as a curious coincidence, this initiative comes just as new questions have been raised about a well-known Mafia don who is buried on Vatican grounds alongside prominent bishops and cardinals. And it isn't just the remains of Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis that police want to dig up.

Why a known-mobster like De Pedis is buried on the grounds of a Vatican church has been the object of much speculation since 1997, when a church maid revealed the tomb’s existence to an inquisitive journalist. The Vatican was always cagey about why the mobster was buried in one of its churches, and ultimately, the church’s silence spurred countless conspiracy theories.  Now, thanks to shocking Vatican letters leaked in the Vatileaks scandal that is rocking the Holy See, the Italian police are less interested in why he’s buried there. Instead, they want to open the tomb to see if the remains of 15-year-old Emanuela Orlandi are interred with those of the mobster.

The kidnapping of the unfortunate, young music student has been tied to Turkish criminals seeking the release of Pope John Paul's would-be assassin and to figures associated with the Banco Ambrosiano scandal but neither theory has ever been proved, nor was the girl ever found. Statements from De Pedis's girlfriend tied her kidnapping and death directly to Archbishop Paul Marcinkus who headed the Vatican bank and a convoluted tangle over unpaid Mafia loans.

In the wake of more leaked documents, the Vatican is in the crosshairs in an expanding investigation.

Now, the focus of the investigation has turned to the Vatican itself, and, according to revelations in a letter leaked to the Italian press last week, the Vatican is taking it very seriously. A three-page letter from Lombardi to church higher-ups indicated even he suspected a cover-up.  In the letter, shown on Italian Rai Tre state television, Lombardi wrote of his concerns and asked how to address the press. “Was the non-collaboration [in the initial Orlandi investigation] normal and justifiable affirmation of Vatican sovereignty, or if in fact circumstances were withheld that might have helped clear something up.”

Italian magistrates are now wondering the same thing, and say they feel the Vatican may still be covering up vital information about Orlandi’s mysterious disappearance. They are picking up on a series of leads that stalled in 2005, starting with a tip from an anonymous caller to an Italian detective program Chi’l’ha Visto (“Who Has Seen”). The caller said Orlandi was kidnapped on the orders of the then vicar of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, and that “the secret to the mystery lies in a tomb in Sant’ Apollinare basilica.”

Whether or not the Mafia/Vatican crypt will be opened is a a subject of ongoing dispute. But what is being revealed, once again, is that highly placed Church officials knew about crimes being committed and put the Vatican's reputation and desire for secrecy ahead of yet another child. And this one was murdered.

“There are those in the Curia who know elements of the circumstantial evidence,” Giancarlo Capaldo, assistant prosecutor in the case, said on Italian television. “There are people still alive, and still inside the Vatican, who know the truth.”

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