Memes with John Paul II. Does the business make money on them?

Luc Williams

The report “Church in crisis” prepared by Onet shows that For nearly one third of people aged 18-39, Karol Wojtyła is more of a meme than a specific person. Probably not all of this group are active creators and consumers of such content, but they are undoubtedly recruited from it. And they gather quite large communities around them.

The clock struck 9:37 p.m

A closed but publicly visible Facebook group called “papuez would never do anything like that” (typos intended by the creators) has 18,000 people. Another, more elite (approx. 2,000 members) group, aptly named “Pora Zwyrola”, publishes content that borders on good taste – related to sexual perversions, excretion and… slandering the Pope.

One could assume that memes about Karol Wojtyla are fun for an invisible niche, but this is not true. Websites with millions of views also attract such content, including: Kwejk, Jeja or Paczaizm. According to the material published on, the oldest memes about John Paul II come from 2010, and the tool through which users exchanged graphics was the Polish Karachan forum. In short, memes about the Pope were invented by the first settlers of online social networks. People who well remembered the day of the death of the Polish leader of the Catholic Church. Millennials.

If you have lived in Poland all your life and are between 30 and 45 years old, there is a good chance that the exact time of John Paul II’s death – 9:37 p.m. – is embedded in your memory like nothing else. Just as April 2, 2005 struck, one national hysteria over collectively watching a dying reality show ended; and the second one began – popemania.

On glasses and curtains

It seemed to me then that I was rather alone in my tiredness with national mourning and with what came to the fore when it subsided a bit. John Paul II, like Ernesto Che Guevara in the song by Strachy na Lachy, “on glasses and curtains”. At least three people I knew then told me that their deceased grandfather/husband was similar to Karol Wojtyła – in appearance and character. Karol Wojtyła, next to Adam Małysz, then became a national mascot and a saint at the same time.

There wasn’t a bad word to say about him. Do you know where the term “rigcz” comes from, meaning “human reason and dignity”? Yes, from the kind of paste that some strange troll pasted on social media wherever someone dared to write something critical about Wojtyla. It was man’s reason and dignity that would dictate that he should never be criticized for anything.

In 2012, Piotr Szumlewicz’s collection of conversations “The Unholy Father” was published, containing interviews with people critical of John Paul II (including Magdalena Środa, Joanna Seneszyn, Jakub Majmurek, Stanisław Obirek and Janusz Palikot), where I read a sentence about it that Wojtyła’s words are not subject to critical reflection in our country, only to exegesis. After reading this book, I felt a little less lonely – I guess I wasn’t the only one who was fed up with it.

The Papaj brand is up for grabs

Finishing the reflection on the phenomenon itself – it is best reflected in a genre scene during which at a party at 9:37 p.m. everyone gets up and sings the Pope’s favorite song – “Barka”. This cult was forcefully forced upon Millennials, so it’s no wonder that now they react with parody, pastiche and memes. Especially since some of us were forced to worship him, knowing that Wojtyła most likely hid sex offenders, and certainly condemned contraception, abortion and climbed into our beds with his shoes in other ways.

One small viral on social media made me wonder whether this generational phenomenon has been properly exploited by business. A man lost his beloved scarf with John Paul II and was desperately looking for it. I immediately became curious – where did he buy this scarf? I quickly discovered that the entire Internet was looking for a store offering a scarf with the image of JPII, richly decorated with the number 2137. Well, there are no scarves like that anywhere. You can buy a mug or a T-shirt with an appropriate meme – they are available from companies specializing in making prints and are not their basic product range.

Why hasn’t anyone created a brand like “papay” or “2127” or, the hardcore version, “JPIIGMD” (don’t know what this acronym stands for? Google it.)? I think it’s for the same reason this column is more polite than I would have dreamed. John Paul II is a saint of the Catholic Church. There is a section in the penal code for insulting him.


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.