Vatican moves on Mob-stolen Caravaggio

Conference in Palazzo della Cancelleria on Monday

(ANSA) - Rome, October 12 - The Vatican has called a conference of exerts to try to find "the world's most wanted painting", a Nativity by Caravaggio stolen from a Palermo church allegedly by the Mafia in 1969.
    The meeting at Palazzo della Cancelleria on Monday will "reiterate the opposition to the mafias on the part of the Church, according to the example of the Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi", a priest gunned down by Cosa Nostra in Palermo in 1993, the Vatican said.
    It aims to "put the Nativity at the centre of international debate so that the painting can finally be found".
    The priceless painting by Caravaggio was first believed to have been destroyed shortly after it disappeared in 1969.
    But investigators now say is actually still intact and could be hidden somewhere in Eastern Europe.
    Police specialised in hunting down stolen art have come upon traces of the work and are convinced it is still in one piece, Colonel Fernando Musella of the Carabinieri police told a press conference.
    Investigators travelled recently to an unspecified city in Eastern Europe in connection with their enquiries, he added, hinting that there might be a happy ending to the story in the near future.
    The painting is called The Nativity and it was painted by the Renaissance master in 1609, shortly before his death.
    It was stolen from a Palermo church 39 years ago, the day after it was mentioned in a TV show about 'forgotten' art treasures.
    News that the police were back on the trail came during the presentation of a new book - The Wall of Glass, by Giuseppe Quatriglio - which tells the story of the painting and the mystery of its disappearance.
    A few years ago a Mafia turncoat alarmed art lovers by claiming that Caravaggio's last work was destroyed by the people who stole it. He said the thieves caused irreparable damage to the canvas as they tried to roll it up, making it unsellable even on the black market.
    It was assumed by many that the painting had then been burnt in order to destroy all evidence of the theft.
    But it appears that recent investigations have disproved the claims of the repentant mafioso, establishing that he was referring to another painting stolen from a Palermo church a year later.