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80 Years and Going Strong

Interview With Head of Poland's Oldest Catholic Magazine

CZESTOCHOWA, Poland, NOV. 1, 2006 (Zenit) - The founders of a magazine called Niedziela, Polish for "Sunday," in post-World War I Poland couldn't have known that their publication was to become the most widely-read Catholic magazine in Eastern Europe.

Founded in 1926 by Bishop Teodoro Kubina of the newly-established Diocese Czestochowa, Niedziela is currently the most widely circulated Catholic magazine not only in Poland, but in the whole block of former Communist countries.

Niedziela has a circulation of around 200,000, publishes 22 diocesan editions, and now has an Internet site and a radio station.

Monsignor Irenaeus Skubis, current editor in chief of the magazine that is celebrating its 80th anniversary, speaks of the magazine's history in this interview with us carried out by Wlodzimierz Redzioch.

Q: How was the weekly magazine Niedziela born?

Monsignor Skubis: It could be said that Niedziela arose at the same time that Poland was being reborn. At the end of World War I, after 123 years of the country's partition among three empires -- German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian -- Poland regained its independence, confirmed by the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919.

The structures of the Catholic Church were then reorganized and the new Diocese of Czestochowa was erected in the areas that previously belonged to the Dioceses of Wloclawek and Kielce. The first bishop of the diocese, Bishop Teodoro Kubina, decided to found a diocesan weekly.

Q: What was the purpose of this magazine?

Monsignor Skubis: Bishop Kubina wanted a weekly close to the people that would report on the life of the diocese, a magazine that would be of pastoral help to parish priests -- he said that Niedziela should be "another vicar" for parish priests. Taking into account the existing historical situation, the weekly was animated by a patriotic spirit and also served to consolidate the unity of this new ecclesiastical entity.

Q: How did the weekly evolve?

Monsignor Skubis: Until the year 1939, that is, until the start of World War II, Niedziela remained as a diocesan magazine with a publication of 8,000 copies. After the war, the printing increased to 94,000 copies because the magazine was disseminated everywhere, outside the diocese.

But the harsh times of the Communist dictatorship were starting. In 1947, the then editor in chief, Father Antoni Marchwka, was imprisoned, and a few years later, in 1953, the weekly was finally closed by the Communist authorities.

Q: When was the publication of Niedziela resumed?

Monsignor Skubis: 28 years later, in 1981. Bishop entrusted to me the task of heading it.

Q: Did you have experience in journalism?

Monsignor Skubis: I was then responsible for university pastoral care and I had contacts with the local Catholic intelligentsia. I also directed a diocesan magazine of theological studies.

Q: In 1981, General Jaruzelski proclaimed a state of war and the Communists were returned to power. In what way did this event affect your work?

Monsignor Skubis: We, university chaplains, were used to the Communist methods. The secret services spied on us, would photograph us and blackmail us. However, for the director of a Catholic magazine new problems were arising: in the first place, censure.

Every issue of Niedziela was subjected to censure and I admit that those weekly meetings with the censors were difficult. There wasn't one edition without cuts by the censor! The second problem had to do with distribution. At that time the state controlled the provision of paper and the distribution of the press.

The Office for Worship decided everything that had to do with the magazine: how many copies we printed -- 100,000 copies -- the press where it was printed and the distribution through state kiosks in the whole of Poland. Our parish priests also had to acquire our magazine in state kiosks!

The authorities probably thought that we would not be able to maintain Niedziela in these conditions. But thanks to hard work and the sacrifices of the writers and, obviously, thanks to the enthusiasm with which we were received by our readers, we succeeded not just in "surviving" but also by increasing readership and creating contacts with more dioceses.

Q: Is that why Niedziela has so many diocesan insertions?

Monsignor Skubis: After the free elections of 1989, we could decide our editorial options on our own. As many diocesan bishops were interested in creating closer relations with our magazine, we decided to publish, together with the national edition, the diocesan insertions also.

The first dioceses to place their insertions were those of Czestochowa, Lodz and Sosnowiec. Then the others followed.

In this way we arrived at 20 diocesan insertions in Poland and two insertions in the United States, where the largest community of Polish emigrants resides. But we sent Niedziela everywhere where there were Polish parishes and to our missionaries virtually worldwide. In this way we reached a publication of close to 200,000 copies.

Q: Meanwhile, Niedziela has now become multimedia.

Monsignor Skubis: It's true. We have opened an Internet site and many people read "Niedziela" for free on the Internet. Many articles are also translated into English and Russian to offer the possibility of reading the most important texts to people who do not know the Polish language.

We also publish books in the collection called "The Niedziela Library." Some 190 volumes have already come out.

And for children, every two months we print a small, beautifully illustrated newspaper. We also have a small radio broadcasting station.

Q: What should be the task of Catholic media such as your magazine?

Monsignor Skubis: The task of the Catholic press should be to proclaim to the man of today the message of hope and goodness. A good Catholic magazine educates, helps to deepen in the faith, forms the conscience, enables one to know and understand the Church, it allows for reflection on the things of this world and on ourselves, it is a school of prayer.

The Catholic press should address all the topics that interest people and that are also addressed by the non-Catholic press, but it should do so with greater responsibility and with honesty.

Q: Above the headline of the weekly is the seal of the Black Virgin, "Queen of Poland." What does it mean for the editorial staff of "Niedziela" to work in the shadow of the Monastery of Jasna Gora, in the Marian heart of Poland?

Monsignor Skubis: We have called the Virgin of Jasna Gora the first "writer" of Niedziela. She is our patroness. That is why Niedziela also wishes to be a means of Marian pastoral care.


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Poland, Niedziela, Magazine, Europe, Redzioch

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