This book tells the story of how Saint John Paul II politically deployed sacred weapons and profane enemies in his war on communism. The effects of his deployment – chiefly during his three pilgrimages to communist Poland – were to evoke and refashion nationalist and religious cultural memories shaped over centuries and thereby influence the prevailing political culture of opposition. In his doing so, the Polish Pope inspired the opposition to peacefully and successfully challenge a communist regime that had at its disposal a full panoply of repressive forces.

The Pope’s sacred weapons were above all the powerful myths and symbols attached to holy figures, wars, insurrections and martyrdom, and the potent rituals of anniversary commemorations, holy masses, beatifications, canonizations and pilgrimages afforded to him as Head of the Roman Catholic Church. Poland’s profane enemies were the Jewish, German and Russian enemies and the powerful myths and symbols associated with them.