How Much of ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ Is True?

Apr 21, 2023

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Pope’s Exorcist.From the original classic The Exorcist to Blumhouse’s upcoming reboot of the same, the fascination with stories of possession and exorcism has not seemed to fade even though the overall template of these films tends to remain identical. Add to that a star like Russell Crowe and some budget, you end up getting a big-ticket horror film like The Pope’s Exorcist. After directing Sylvester Stallone in his first superhero avatar in Samaritan, Julius Avery is back with another film with an A-lister steering the story. In the titular role, Russell Crowe dons the hat of a veteran exorcist who balances the act between faith and science while managing to sneak in a joke even in the most gut-wrenching situations. While the events depicted in the film may feel a bit larger-than-life bringing into question the factuality of the events, Crowe’s Father Gabriele Amorth is very much inspired by a real-life figure – an Italian Catholic priest and exorcist of the same name who has claimed to have conducted more than 50,000 exorcisms.

Based on the memoirs of Father Amorth, The Pope’s Exorcist serves an interesting concoction of events, partly real and fictional, to present a horror film steeped in modernity as well as history. From the Spanish Inquisition to the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi (which was the subject of Netflix’s docuseries Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi recently), Julius Avery’s film keeps hinting at real-life happenings that have partly inspired the events captured in it because clearly, one thing better than a good horror film is a horror film that has equal parts of truth and creativity mixed into it.

RELATED: ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ Review: Russell Crowe Can’t Save This Unholy Disaster

Who Is Father Gabriele Amorth?

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Born in Modena in Italy on 1 May 1925, Father Gabriel Amorth was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1954. In 1986, he was appointed as an exorcist under the tutelage of Chief Exorcist Servant of God Candido Amantini, a master exorcist himself. Along with the French exorcist Father Rene Chenessau, Father Amorth also founded the Vatican-recognized International Association of Exorcists, headquartered in Rome, in 1990. He remained president of the organization until his retirement in 2000.

Among exorcists, Father Gabriele Amorth is a pivotal figure who claimed to conduct more than 50,000 exorcisms, with many being performed on the same individuals, as one individual can be the target of multiple possessions, just like Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) in the film. Very early into the film, it is established that not all possessions are real and most are psychological in nature, as evidenced by the opening scene in which Father Amorth tricks a possession victim into believing that the demon inside him was killed after tricking it into entering the body of a pig. In a later scene, Crowe’s Amorth re-establishes the same; that most possession victims he handles are not in fact victims of possession but merely require psychological assistance.

Father Amorth’s fame exceeds those of others in such a manner that William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, even shot a documentary that showed Father Amorth carrying out an exorcism on a 46-year-old woman named Christina. More than the next-door priest who conducted a crazy number of exorcisms, Father Amorth was known to put his opinion out in the open when it came to all things that are evil in nature. Famously (or infamously), Father Amorth claimed that Harry Potter and yoga are evil. This directly implies that all Potterheads and yoga practitioners are Satan worshippers. Over the years, Father Amorth has published many books, putting to ink his adventures as he traveled across the world counteracting the devil’s work.

‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ Connects Amorth With Emanuela Orlandi

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In The Pope’s Exorcist, the demon Asmodeus, who possessed the body of the young boy Henry, feeds on the sins of those who oppose him. This translates into an emotionally difficult battle for Amorth who has committed his fair share of sins, including being partially guilty for the death of a young girl, Rosaria, whose case he handled briefly. Now, in one of the scenes in the film, Father Amorth, while confessing to his apprentice Father Esquibel (played by Daniel Zovatto), explains that Rosaria was suffering from mental illness. In the following few lines, Father Amorth also hints at rumors of Rosaria being sexually abused within the walls of the Vatican. This minor detail connects Rosaria with Emanuela Orlandi, a teenager who mysteriously disappeared when returning from her music class one day.

What Real-Life Events Does ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ Reference?

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While there have been many theories about the disappearance of Emanuela, Father Amorth got involved with Emanuela’s disappearance when he claimed that the Vatican police kidnapped Emanuela for sex parties and murdered her. Coming directly from the Pope’s exorcist, the words were enough to fuel further suspicion that the Vatican had been trying to cover up the truth behind Emanuela’s disappearance. In one of the initial scenes of the film, Crowe’s Father Amorth even questions some high officials of the Vatican on the lack of due process when it came to the death of Rosaria, who, as per the film, jumped to her death.

Another major historical event that The Pope’s Exorcist delves into is the Spanish Inquisition. As per the film’s version of the events, the Spanish Inquisition seems to be driven by a master exorcist, possessed by the demon Asmodeus, who wanted to give a bad name to God and the Church. While this may not really align well with the historians, Father Amorth’s own opinions find a voice in this particular element of the film’s story in which the demon Asmodeus is focused on infiltrating the Vatican by possessing Father Amorth – the very reason why he requests for the priest to be brought to him after possessing little Henry’s body. The real Father Gabriele Amorth has even gone on record to claim that the Vatican was, indeed, infiltrated by the Devil.

Will There Be More ‘Pope’s Exorcist’ Movies in the Future?

Image via Sony

Undoubtedly, the personal views of Father Amorth, well reflected through his writings that have provided the foundation for the film, dictate much of the on-screen character played by Oscar winner Russell Crowe. Although Father Amorth passed away at the age of 91 in 2016, the well-documented nature of his life as a prolific exorcist has ensured that there is ample material for filmmakers to play around with. This might even result in a sequel as hinted by the final scene of The Pope’s Exorcist — if the movie manages to send the cash register ringing at the box office. Nonetheless, Father Amorth had exorcism stories worth thousands of films if the need for more ever arises!

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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