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The Woman Who Challenged the Vatican: Six Questions with the Star of Netflix’s Hit “Vatican Girl”

Laura Sgrò has become one of the most prominent attorneys in Italy. Her courage, intellect, and vision have inspired an entire generation of aspiring female entrepreneurs across Italy. However, Sgrò’s rise to stardom has not been without adversity. 

The 46-year-old super lawyer began her career as a humble attorney practicing in Milan. She caught her big break in 2015 when she became the attorney of the family of Emanuela Orlandi, an unsolved kidnapping that paralyzed Italy in the 1980s and ’90s. Sgrò became a central figure in the ‘Vatileaks’ case, which, as a result of her litigation, led to the exoneration of several journalists who were on trial with the Vatican. Her story is told in the hit Netflix documentary “Vatican Girl” as well as her bestselling book “Blood in the Vatican”.

Our staff at America Domani sat down with Sgrò in an exclusive interview ahead of National Missing Persons Day. 

America Domani: February 3rd is National Missing Person’s Day. What can you share with us about the importance of raising awareness for missing and exploited persons?

Laura Sgrò: Families suffer in these cases beyond imagination. Providing closure to families suffering from these cases is a basic human and moral right that we all have an obligation to support. 

AD: You had the courage to challenge the Vatican at a very particular moment. Where did you find the motivation to do this?

LS: I did what I felt was right for the love of the justice system. Everyone has the right to be defended and I believe that those who choose this profession of law must be free from all biases, and to the extent, it is possible to be free from fear. Saying I wasn’t afraid would be a lie, but I learned to manage my emotions. When I found myself in front of the Vatican, what I asked myself was whether or not I would want to defend the person who was asking me for help. I told myself yes and from that point forward I took it all the way. 

(Photo Credit: Studio Legale Laura Sgro)

AD: What were some of the most difficult challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome these difficulties?

LS: The most difficult challenges I had- and ones that I still have-revolve around the Vatican. In the Netflix documentary Vatican Girl, I talk about many challenges that I had to overcome to bring justice to the Orlandi family, who for almost 40 years have been searching desperately for their beloved Emanuela. The young girl mysteriously disappeared and has been a part of some of the most tragic events in the history of Italy. I talk about this and so many other similar challenges in my book, “Sangue In Vaticano” (Blood in the Vatican) which I encourage all of the Italians in America to read and hopefully will soon be translated into English. 

AD: When did you first hear about the Emanuela Orlandi case and how closely did you follow it throughout your career?

LS: I met Pietro Orlandi at the beginning of 2017 and we immediately had a great synergy. He is a strong and courageous man just like the rest of the Orlandi family. They are extraordinary people. What happened to them would have destroyed anyone. Nevertheless, they have persevered and they have continued to search for Emanuela. I chose to take on this challenge together with them and to put myself in the shoes of their family. In recent years we were able to open an investigation into the Vatican which was unprecedented previously and it was the first time in history that a case of this nature made it all the way into the courtrooms of the Vatican. As a result of this investigation, we were able to achieve something that had never before happened, which was having the Vatican authorize the opening of 2 tombs on their grounds. 

AD: What type of impact do you feel your work in the Orlandi case has had on the Italian culture and judicial system since the case ended?

LS: The integrity of the law, the pursuit of truth, and justice are values that must apply to all of us. I receive so many messages from people all over the world who support and appreciate our work. Many young lawyers ask to work for me and consider me a role model. Obviously, this brings me incredible gratification, but all I try to do is practice law and do my job in a humble way. 

AD: You have become a role model for generations of Italian women who want to enter the world of law and entrepreneurism. What advice would you give to young women who are aspiring to become the next Laura Sgrò?

LS: My advice is to study continuously. Hard work, tenacity, and perseverance always pay off. Don’t ever limit yourself by setting easy goals and by abstaining from sacrifice. You must always be prepared for every situation and be ready to take on new challenges. Lastly, follow your passion in your work. Everything you can do with passion is always oriented toward bringing successful results.