The chilling true story behind ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’
(Credit: Netflix)

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The chilling true story behind 'The Pope's Exorcist'

Julius Avery’s summer horror outing, The Pope’s Exorcist, eerily enough, is a tale rooted in real-life events.

Centred around Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, played by Russell Crowe, the movie is all about his intense battle against a unique adversary—Satan and a group of demons. While this bit of the film is all fiction, a profound investigation uncovers a centuries-old secret concealed within the Vatican’s walls, which is very much based on true events.

The film delves into the Catholic Church’s past, specifically the Spanish Inquisition, interweaving these aspects into its plot. However, one character named Rosaria, portrayed by Bianca Bardoe, is believed to be inspired by a real individual whose chilling story has haunted the public for decades.

While The Pope’s Exorcist has found its audience on Netflix, the underlying truths behind the film make it all the more riveting.

Who was Emanuela Orlandi, the inspiration behind Rosaria’s character in The Pope’s Exorcist?

The character Rosaria’s arc in the movie is very similar to the tragic fate of a Vatican teenager, Emanuela Orlandi, who suddenly disappeared on her way home from music school on June 22nd, 1983. She was the daughter of a Vatican employee, which added a layer of complexity to the investigation

Within the film, Rosaria’s character approaches Father Amorth, suggesting she is possessed by a demon that abuses her nightly. Father Amorth’s refusal to perform an exorcism ultimately leads to Rosaria’s fatal leap in front of him, leaving him consumed by guilt. In a heart-wrenching twist, it’s implied that Rosaria suffered sexual abuse within the confines of the Vatican.

In 2012, the real Father Amorth alleged that the 15-year-old Orlandi was abducted by a ring including Vatican police and foreign diplomats for a sex party. He stated she was subsequently killed and her body hidden. Father Amorth claimed girls were sourced from the Vatican for these gatherings. 

Suspicion has swirled around the Vatican’s potential involvement in her disappearance, a theory examined in the Netflix docu-series Vatican Girl. Accusations of the Vatican’s non-cooperation with investigations have only fueled further speculation.

Emanuela Orlandi’s fate remained unknown for years until her remains were discovered in the Vatican’s Teutonic Cemetery in 2019, reigniting discussions about the circumstances of her disappearance.

In 2023, under the guidance of head prosecutor Alessandro Diddi, appointed by Pope Francis himself, the Vatican has finally initiated an official investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance. Her older brother, Pietro Orlandi, has tirelessly sought the truth behind his sister’s vanishing.

The resurgence of interest in Orlandi’s story, prompted by both The Pope’s Exorcist and the documentary series Vatican Girl, has rekindled hopes for answers.