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The Rite: The Story Behind the Film View Comments
By By Matt Wielgos and John Feister

Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins, left) administers the Rite of Exorcism for Rosaria (Marta Gastini) as seminarian Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) apprehensively looks on.

This month The Rite opens at movie theaters across the United States. It’s the gripping tale of a San Jose, California, priest, Father Gary Thomas, who at his bishop’s request went to Rome to study exorcism.

Matt Baglio, an American journalist in Rome, wrote a book based on Father Gary’s story. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist was published in 2009 by Doubleday (with an audio version shortly thereafter by St. Anthony Messenger Press). The film is based on Baglio’s book.

Baglio, living in Rome, spent time with Father Gary during his exorcist training in 2005, while Father Gary was apprenticing with an Italian priest at over 80 exorcisms. In Italy, exorcism is a ritual that never really left the public eye.

St. Anthony Messenger interviewed Matt Baglio twice in recent years for our radio program, American Catholic Radio. Our most recent interview was last November, as the film was being completed. Radio producer Matt Wielgos, on his way to a pilgrimage in Assisi, talked to Baglio in Rome in a piazza over a cup of coffee.


Matt Wielgos is manager of the media production department at St. Anthony Messenger Press (SAMP). He holds a B.A. in mass communications and theology from the Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. John Feister is general editor of periodicals at St. Anthony Messenger Press.

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John of Monte Corvino: At a time when the Church was heavily embroiled in nationalistic rivalries within Europe, it was also reaching across Asia to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Mongols. John of Monte Corvino went to China about the same time Marco Polo was returning. 
<p>John was a soldier, judge and doctor before he became a friar. Prior to going to Tabriz, Persia (present-day Iran), in 1278, he was well known for his preaching and teaching. In 1291 he left Tabriz as a legate of Pope Nicholas IV to the court of Kublai Khan. An Italian merchant, a Dominican friar and John traveled to western India where the Dominican died. When John and the Italian merchant arrived in China in 1294, Kublai Khan had recently died. </p><p>Nestorian Christians, successors to the dissidents of the fifth-century Council of Ephesus’ teaching on Jesus Christ, had been in China since the seventh century. John converted some of them and also some of the Chinese, including Prince George from Tenduk, northwest of Beijing. Prince George named his son after this holy friar. </p><p>John established his headquarters in Khanbalik (now Beijing), where he built two churches; his was the first resident Catholic mission in the country. By 1304 he had translated the Psalms and the New Testament into the Tatar language. </p><p>Responding to two letters from John, Pope Clement V named John Archbishop of Khanbalik in 1307 and consecrated seven friars as bishops of neighboring dioceses. One of the seven never left Europe. Three others died along the way to China; the remaining three bishops and the friars who accompanied them arrived there in 1308. </p><p>When John died in 1328, he was mourned by Christians and non-Christians. His tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1368, Christianity was banished from China when the Mongols were expelled and the Ming dynasty began. John’s cause has been introduced in Rome.</p> American Catholic Blog We look ahead to the coming of the Son of Man, standing erect and with heads held high. We live in hope, not in fear. Our experience of God is no longer limited by human weakness or even human sinfulness. God has always been one step ahead of us, with a plan that exceeds our greatest desires.

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