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Pope Francis remarks on 'offensive' insinuations against John Paul II

Pope Francis celebrates the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican.on Sunday, April 9, 2023. Pope Francis invoked prayers for both the Ukrainian and Russian people. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI
1 of 2 | Pope Francis celebrates the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican.on Sunday, April 9, 2023. Pope Francis invoked prayers for both the Ukrainian and Russian people. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

April 16 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Sunday defended St. John Paul II against insinuations that his predecessor would seek out young girls to molest while flanked by two monsignors.

The insinuations were made in the form of an audiotape of a purported mobster provided by the brother of "Vatican Girl" Emanuela Orlandi to prosecutors investigating her 1983 disappearance.

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Pietro Orlandi, whose 15-year-old sister vanished while waiting for a bus on her way to a music lesson in Piazza di Sant'Apollinare in Rome, played part of the recording on an Italian television program after meeting with investigators.

Investigators in Vatican City, the city-state that houses the Holy See of the Catholic Church, announced in January the cold case investigation into Emanuela's disappearance was reopened after several requests from her family. Her father was a Vatican employee and she lived in the city-state before she vanished.

"I direct a grateful thought to the memory of Saint John Paul II, the object of offensive and unfounded inferences these past few days," Francis said Sunday, according to Vatican News -- the press arm of the Holy See.

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Vatican News, which is owned and operated by the church, noted that "conspiracy theories abound" related to the disappearance of Emanuela.

Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican's editorial director, also addressed the scandal in a statement published by the church.

"It is sacrosanct that there be a full investigation to seek the truth about Emanuela's disappearance," Tornielli said.

"But no one deserves to be slandered in this way, without even a shred of evidence, on the basis of the 'rumors' of some unknown personage of the criminal underworld or of some sleazy anonymous comment broadcast live on TV."

The case was reopened just months after the release of the Netflix documentary Vatican Girl, which focused on her disappearance. The documentary suggested that the Vatican may have withheld information about her fate.

Pietro Orlandi's lawyer Laura Sgro said Friday that her client had not intended to "formulate accusations against anyone," according to Italy's ANSA news agency.

"He reiterated that to the prosecutor, and he wrote it in the deposition he presented during his testimony," said Sgro.

"He only asked that the quest for the truth should not be conditioned in any way. He is sorry that some people have misinterpreted his statements by manipulating some things extrapolated from them."

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