LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rev. Edward Seibert’s journey with “The Pope’s Exorcist,” arguably the Catholic Church’s most famous exorcist, began with a dramatic visit to Milan nearly six years ago.
The Jesuit priest remembers sitting in a restaurant sipping wine and thinking about the expensive airline ticket he had bought the day before. He is also concerned about the deal he has just struck with the St. Paul’s Society to purchase the rights to the life story of the Reverend Gabriel Amorworth – the late Reverend Boleyn known as “the James Bond of Exorcists”.
Seibert, who studies film at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and runs the college’s film production company, had no motion picture credits to his name and wondered at the time, “What did I go to and do?”
Today, he’s breathing a sigh of relief as Amworth’s version of life comes to life on the big screen as “The Exorcist of the Pope,” starring Oscar-winner Russell Crowe in the titular role. Opens in US theaters on Friday.
Amorth was appointed head exorcist of the Archdiocese of Rome in 1986 and remained there until 2016, when he died at the age of 91. In those three decades, Ammerworth claims to have performed over 60,000 exorcisms. His first book, “The Exorcist Tells His Story” was released in 1990 and was an instant bestseller, being translated into 30 languages. In the same year, Amorth, who called his favorite movie “The Exorcist,” founded the International Association of Exorcists.
He was an unlikely candidate to take on the project, says Seibert, one of the film’s executive producers. But Michael Patrick Kaczmarek, a New Mexico-based filmmaker with whom he previously worked, convinced him of the power of Amworth’s stories.
Kaczmarek, one of the film’s producers, said he reached out to Amorth through his religious order’s publishing company in 2015 and the executives told him many had tried to secure film and television rights to the Exorcist books, “but were always denied.” But Kaczmarek’s perseverance paid off.
“Through the assistance of translators, I sent Father Amorth a detailed correspondence in which I assured him of my religious devotion and sincere desire to be respected by the Ministry of Exorcism,” Cashmarek said, adding that his partnership with Siebert helped convince Amorth of his intention to preserve the story. religious integrity.
Amerworth’s stories “scared him at first”, Seibert said, but he was moved by the priest’s faith and determination to help people.
Amorth said that 98% of the people who come to him need a psychiatrist, not an exorcist, a detail Crowe makes clear in the film. When a cardinal asked him what the remaining 2% was, he said, “Ah, the other 2%—that’s something that has bedeviled all science and all medicine for a very long time.” “I call it evil,” he adds, after a dramatic pause.
Like Siebert, Crowe has said during several media interviews that he is not a fan of horror films, and prefers to “sleep deep at night.” But he said that Amerworth’s personality fascinated him; He read the priest’s first two books and talked with people who had seen him perform exorcisms. Crowe said that two aspects of Amworth’s character made him addictive – “the unwavering purity of his faith and his wicked sense of humor”.
In the 2017 documentary The Devil and Father Amworth, the priest can be seen – before the exorcism begins – waving his nose in the direction of the woman who is said to be possessed. It was a gesture he made before each exorcism to let the demon know he wasn’t afraid.
In “The Pope’s Exorcist,” set in 1987, Crowe’s Amorth heads to Spain with his apprentice, a junior priest, who is tasked with investigating the possession of a young boy. There he discovered a “centuries-old conspiracy” that the Vatican had tried to cover up in a plot that appears to be directing The Da Vinci Code, Indiana Jones, and several buddy cop movies.
Crowe and the filmmakers took liberal creative license with Amorth’s character and storylines. Crowe didn’t look like the bald, bespectacled, clean-shaven priest. On screen, Crowe returns a double espresso and rides a Lambretta motorcycle through Rome, as his gusts rustle in the breeze to the music of Faith No More. His scooter has a Ferrari decal – a nod to Amworth’s hometown of Modena, where the luxury automaker is headquartered.
Amorth’s complex path to the priesthood included fighting as a partisan in World War II, obtaining a law degree and working as a journalist. He did not become an exorcist until he was 61 years old. He was no stranger to controversy, claiming that Hitler and Stalin were possessed, that pedophile cults operated within the Vatican, and that yoga and Harry Potter were portals to Satan.
Monsignor Stephen J. Rossetti, a psychologist and exorcist in the Archdiocese of Washington who has more than 76,000 followers on an Instagram account he started six months ago, says Amworth’s work as an exorcist has influenced and inspired many in the Catholic Church who came after him. Rossetti says there is a growing and renewed appetite for information about demonic possession and exorcism.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Father Amorth,” Rossetti said. “He kept this ministry alive when it was largely ignored by the church and society.”
Although exorcisms were a frequent part of Jesus Christ’s ministry, Catholic seminarians and priests were not trained to do so, he said, adding that films like “The Exorcist” had raised awareness of the phenomenon of demonic possession. Like Amorth, Rossetti asserts that “diabolical influences” have increased amid a decline in faith, a rush into sin and the practice of the occult.
Exorcism when practiced properly It was “an act of healing and faith,” Rossetti said, adding that he had witnessed “darkness and evil” during his 15 years as an exorcist.
He said, “Demons appear in session and an exorcist gets an incredibly sinister face that no human can emulate.” “Things fly across the room. Demons engage in antics like immature 12-year-olds trying to scare you.”
But with faith and God on his side, it was always a “delightful service,” Rossetti said.
The International Association of Exorcists posted a statement on their website criticizing the movie “The Exorcist of the Pope” based on the trailer. The Society described it as “a performance intended to arouse strong and unhealthy feelings, thanks to a bleak scenography, with sound effects…to arouse anxiety, anxiety and fear only in the spectator”.
Joseph Laycock, an associate professor of religious studies at Texas State University, said that despite protests from religious circles after the release of such films or television shows, “exorcists benefit from the media even when their portrayal is sensationalized.”
Laycock’s latest book, “The Exorcist Effect,” examines the demand for the 1973 film created for exorcism. He says the film had a hand in changing the Catholic Church’s attitude towards the practice. He describes Amorth as “the single most important priest in the revival of exorcism” after “The Exorcist” and predicts continued growing interest in exorcism.
“The kind of Christianity we had in America during the mid-twentieth century, emphasizing morality over the supernatural, was an anomaly,” said Laycock. Most of Christian history has emphasized spiritual and supernatural warfare. This is Christianity’s return to its supernatural roots.”
Seibert, who worked for nearly eight years to bring Amorth’s story to the big screen, says The Pope’s Exorcist hasn’t changed his views on horror films or exorcisms. They both give him chills. But it breaks his heart to see a priest appear positive after so many movies and TV shows have either denigrated or belittled them.
He said, “It’s good to see a priest talk about prayer, forgiveness, love of God, and above all, defeating demons.” “It’s good to finally see the priest as a hero.”
AP religious coverage is supported by an Associated Press collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. And the AP is solely responsible for this content.
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