Tygodnik Powszechny, a liberal Roman Catholic magazine in Poland that recently criticised some high-ranking church officials, received a letter from the Krakow diocese giving the paper three months' notice to move out.
One of Poland's best-known Catholic newspapers has appealed for donations from well-wishers after its lease on Church-owned premises was suddenly cancelled by the Krakow archdiocese.
“We must now pack more than 76 years into containers and reopen somewhere new in comfortable surroundings,” said Piotr Mucharski, chief editor of the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly. “We always felt we depended entirely on our readers, who are our real capital. It's thanks to them that we're sovereign and unafraid to write difficult, discussible things.”
The 61-year-old layman spoke to local media following the southern archdiocese's announcement that it was repossessing the weekly's historic city-centre offices at 12 Wislna Street, close to the Catholic Curia. He said Church leaders had not detailed their “trivial reasons” for ending the lease, which gives staff three months to vacate.
Meanwhile, the weekly's promotion director, Maja Kuczminska, said more than 160,000 zloties (£32,000) had been donated to the paper by last weekend in response to a Facebook appeal. “We don't know how many of these donors are readers and how many sympathisers,” Kuczminska added. “Some wish to express their opposition to the way our agreement has been suspended by the Archdiocese - in the middle of a pandemic in winter.”
Founded in 1945 at the initiative of Cardinal Adam Sapieha of Krakow, Tygodnik Powszechny was allowed to operate, heavily censored, under communist rule, including among columnists Fr Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, who helped mediate in its disputes with communist officials.
The paper provided a rare forum for independent writers and thinkers, including the poets Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert and Wislawa Szymborska, but was hit by intense competition in the 1990s under its veteran editor, Jerzy Turowicz (1912-1999), whose successor, Fr Adam Boniecki, was forced to appeal for donations in 2009 amid plummeting advertising and subscription revenues.
The weekly was also heavily criticised by Polish Church leaders for a perceived over-liberal editorial line under Boniecki, who was barred from media appearances by his Marian order after resigning as editor in 2011, amid calls for the weekly's Catholic title to be withdrawn.
In August 2019, Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow accused Tygodnik's editors of manipulation and demanded an apology, after they accused him of speaking “contrary to Jesus's teachings” in a controversial homily criticising LGBT campaigners.
In its end-of-year issue, the weekly named a lay Catholic editor, Zbigniew Nosowski, whose Warsaw-based Wiez periodical has also seen plummeting readership, as its “man of the year” for helping publicise “pathological mechanisms” in the Polish Church relating to sexual abuse.
In an online editorial, Tygodnik Powszechny said the Krakow archdiocese's decision had been the “first shock of the New Year”, but added that the second had been the “unprecedented support” shown by readers, accompanied by “kind words, warm comments and offers of help”.
A former deputy editor, Szymon Holownia, told Wiez that Archbishop Jedraszewski was taking “small and mean revenge” for the newspaper's criticism of his “rhetorical excesses”, while another Catholic writer, Joanna Podsadecka, said the weekly's forced removal testified to a “recent trend” in the Polish Church to “exclude more and more groups”, while “closing discussion and despising those who express doubts”.
However, the conservative Warsaw-based Do Rzeczy weekly said Tygodnik Powszechny had carried articles supporting abortion rights and had long since ceased to reflect a Catholic standpoint.
Catholic publications are traditionally required to include an official “Church assistant”, or representative, on their editorial board to ensure conformity with Catholic teaching, although Tygodnik Powszechny no longer includes the post among several dozen staffers listed on its website.