With ‘Niedziela’ closer to the Church and closer to the world
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Jerzy Zawieyski, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Stefan Kisielewski, Miron Kolakowski, MP – are only some names from the long list of those who fought to reactivate ‘Niedziela’ on the press market in various periods of the history of this weekly.
The year 2011 exceptionally abounds in important anniversaries and events connected with the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela.’ We are celebrating the 85th anniversary of ‘Niedziela’ founded in 1926 and the 30th anniversary of its return to the press market after a 28 year break, caused by the restrictions of the communist state towards the Church and the limitation of freedom of speech. The cornerstone, on which the re-building of the weekly began in 1981, was certainly the person of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. Thus ‘Niedziela’ is an old and young periodical. During its long history it had a time for speaking and a time of silence.
First steps, development, silence
‘Niedziela’ was founded by Bishop Teodor Kubina of Czestochowa and its first editor-in-chief was Fr Wojciech Mondry. Its first issue was published 85 years ago, on 4 April 1926.
It was so long ago… We can capture the atmosphere of those times and the mentality of those people by analysing the ways of encouraging people to buy and read ‘Niedziela.’ In ‘Wiadomosci Diecezjalne’ [Diocesan News] in 1932 there was an editorial of ‘Niedziela’ entitled ‘About propaganda and distribution of Catholic papers’ in which readers were encouraged to read Catholic press, ‘Put forward the principle that a Catholic paper should be in every home. If you are a Catholic, read Catholic press,’ 'The worst enemy of the holy Church is religious ignorance,’ ‘Save one cigarette a day and you will have ‘Niedziela’ on Sunday, and it will be more valuable when you transform the sacrifice of your body into great nourishment for the soul that is often poorer than your poor body.’
For many years ‘Niedziela’ was printed in the Franciszek Dionizy Wilkoszewski Printing House in Czestochowa. On 15 September 1937 Fr Stanislaw Galazka became the next editor-in-chief of ‘Niedziela.’ The outbreak of World War II stopped the publication of ‘Niedziela’ for several years. The last issue appeared on 3 September 1939. Although the German authorities proposed to publish the weekly but the editorial board did not agree because it meant collaboration with the occupant. The paper remained silence for several years.
Post-war hunger for a Catholic paper
The time of silence was broken after the war. The new chapter of ‘Niedziela’ began to open in February 1945. The eminent writer Zofia Kossak-Szatkowska (known as Kossak-Szczucka), who had come to Czestochowa after the Warsaw Uprising, offered Bishop Kubina her help in reactivating ‘Niedziela.’ Soon the Bishop of Czestochowa appointed Fr Antoni Marchewka as editor-in-chief.
The first post-war issue of ‘Niedziela’ was published on 8 April 1945. It was a national paper then. ‘Niedziela’ also found its readers in the environments of the Polish immigrants abroad. It is worth stressing that during the first months after the reactivation of the weekly Zofia Kossak-Szatkowska was part of the editorial board.
The post-war history of ‘Niedziela’ and its extremely dynamical development were described by Fr Marchewka and can be read in the book entitled ‘Nadejdzie kiedys dzien wolnosci. Wspomnienia’ [The Day of Freedom Will Come Some Day. Memoirs], published in 2008 in the Library of ‘Niedziela.’ Fr Marchewka wrote, ‘Although the first issue of ‘Niedziela’ was published only in 7,000 copies we had to increase the circulation of the next issue – 10,000 copies. And the circulation of every issue was bigger. Then hunger for Catholic press was so big that during the first year we published 100,000 copies of ‘Niedziela’ weekly. The demand was even bigger. Unfortunately, the state authorities – the Office of Press Control– did not allow us to increase the circulation despite my strenuous efforts.’
Communist authorities against ‘Niedziela’
After the war the struggle between the communist authorities and ecclesiastical institutions intensified. The security officers (SB) arrested Fr Marchewka on 17 July 1947. He spent many months in the prison in Koszykarska Street and then in the prison located in Rakowiecka Street in Warsaw. During his absence the weekly was directed by Fr Wladyslaw Sobon and Fr Marian Rzeszewski.
After Fr Marchewka had been released and returned to Czestochowa, in June 1948, he immediately became involved in the editorial work. But the editorial board experienced political repressions increasingly stronger. Within less than a year after his return the communist authorities informed Fr Marchewka that ‘Niedziela’ could not be printed in Czestochowa. A printing house in Katowice took over the task. Another important step was to strike the circulation of the weekly. In 1951 the state authorities began monopolising the distribution of press, including the Catholic press to have full control of the distribution. The Prime Minister issued a regulation on the virtue of which the state-owned Press Distribution Company ‘Ruch’ had exclusive rights to subscriptions and distribution of Catholic dailies, weeklies and other periodicals (the regulation of 27 July 1950). Thus the distribution of private Catholic papers was liquidated. Fr Marchewka wrote about the effects of that act in his memoirs, ‘A year and a half did not pass after ‘Ruch’ had taken over the distribution when without any prior notice of any change of the circulation of the weekly the administration of ‘Niedziela’ received an order for 10,500 copies instead of 94,000 copies as previously.’
‘Ruch’ clearly broke the agreement signed with Catholic publishing houses, refusing to accept readers’ orders of collective subscriptions. That administrative action conducted with the help of ‘Ruch’ and aiming at destroying the circulation of the weekly was successful. And the issue of ‘Niedziela’ dated 6 April 1953 was the last one. ‘Niedziela’ was forced to be silent for long 28 years.
Attempts to reactivate ‘Niedziela’
After October 1956, Poland’s Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski himself intervened in the matter of reactivating ‘Niedziela.’ The Polish Bishops’ Conference asserted the rights of ‘Niedziela’ through their delegates in the Joint Commission. And after the October ’56 thaw Fr Marchewka, attempting to reactivate the weekly, organised an editorial team consisting of known Polish publicists and writers. And he began appealing to various offices for the publication of ‘Niedziela.’ There were also talks between Fr Marchewka and other members of the editorial board and the state authorities.
However, after the short period of birth of the nation’s hope for better future the communist authorities began to restrict freedom of speech systematically. On 23 April 1957, Fr Marchewka was informed that after having realised part of numerous appeals concerning permissions to publish Catholic periodicals the possibility of allotting paper was gone in the current period. It meant no consent to publish ‘Niedziela.’ Therefore, the excuse of the authorities was the lack of paper.
Making more efforts to reactivate ‘Niedziela’ Fr Marchewka looked for the support of Catholic MPs. Finally, he decided to appeal to the Speaker of the Parliament. On 30 October 1957, the Speaker was handed a memorial signed by Zofia Kossak, Fr Antoni Marchewka and Antoni Gladysz. The memorial was given by a group of MPs that supported it. The following MPs signed the memorial: Bolesław Jackiewicz, Jozef Marek, Jan Miodonski, Jozef Kedzierski, Pawel Wrobel, Zygmunt Nowakowski, Stefan Kisielewski, Jerzy Zawieyski, Miron Kolakowski, Kazimierz Krol, Pawel Kwoczek, Zbigniew Makarczyk, Konstanty Morawski, Wanda Pieniezna, Kazimierz Skowronski and Antoni Gladysz.
On 22 May 1958, Fr Marchewka sent another letter concerning ‘Niedziela’ to the Main Office of Press Control in Warsaw. Despite such a strong social support, including the support of the contemporary authorities, there was no answer to that intervention. Fr Marchewka noted in his diary, ‘Leaving that matter in God’s hands we believe that the day of justice and freedom will come and then resurrected «Niedziela» will serve God’s work to the salvific benefits of the Catholic society in Poland.’ These were the last words of Fr Marchewka’s memoirs.
Waiting for another chance
The next bishop of Czestochowa Zdzislaw Golinski regarded the reactivation of ‘Niedziela’ as a priority of religious life. He intervened in the matter of ‘Niedziela’ many times. The waiting period for the reactivation of “Niedziela’ lasted till 1981. Throughout that time Bishop Stefan Barela, the third Metropolitan of Czestochowa, and faithful readers of ‘Niedziela’ supported its reactivation, among other things collecting signatures in parishes in the Diocese of Czestochowa in the 1970s.
On the wave of the Solidarity movement, in 1981, new, more intense activities to reactivate ‘Niedziela’ were undertaken. Fr Ireneusz Skubis, the diocesan chaplain of students, was Bishop Barela’s delegate to talk to the authorities. He spared no effort to restore the weekly to the Catholic society in Poland. He used to go to Warsaw even 3-4 times a week to conduct difficult conversations in the central offices.
The long-awaited positive decision was taken on 5 March 1981 and the first issue of ‘Niedziela’ after the 28-year break was published on 7 June 1981. Fr Ireneusz Skubis became its editor-in-chief and he began organising editorial-publishing works from scratch. Even the archives of the previous editorial board were not preserved because of the political restrictions the weekly had faced.
From ‘Cellar’ to the world of media
One can say that the present Editor-in-Chief introduced the weekly to the world, from the student chaplaincy ‘Piwnica’ [Cellar]. He ‘caught’ future editors, journalists and authors to the reactivated ‘Niedziela’ from the Cellar located in the basement of the bishop’s house in Czestochowa. They formed an environment that was important to the whole city of Czestochowa. In the student centre there were open meetings with representatives of the big intellectual world, including the famous personalities from various fields of science and culture as well as from the circles of the political opposition. The students wrote down the speeches delivered and recorded in the centre and spread them in the form of carbon copies, thus exposing themselves to the interests of the security officers. Those who visited the Cellar and the academic church located in the Blessed Virgin Mary Avenues still remember the meetings with the famous social journalist Stefan Kisielewski who had the courage to criticise the actions of the communist authorities using his specific, often fiercely humorous language, and the listeners applauded his words very much. The young Poles, whose minds had been enslaved in the dark communist times, could learn about the true chapters of Poland’s history. The truth about the Katyn massacre, the Warsaw Uprising and the battle of 1920, called the Miracle at the Vistula, was taken out of the pro-independence underground movement. This is how the free republic of Czestochowa, being a breeding ground for new minds and characters, functioned.
When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II the environment of the Cellar, led by Fr Skubis. began editing and distributing ‘Monitor Koscielny’ [Church Gazette] – a bulletin presenting news from the Church edited on the basis of the programmes of the Vatican Radio. It was those people who created that student bulletin that became the first journalists of ‘Niedziela’ and the outstanding personalities from all over Poland who spoke in the Cellar became the first authors of ‘Niedziela.’ Because of such a versatile intellectual base the first issues of ‘Niedziela,’ reactivated in 1981, could include articles written by such great authors as Stefan Kisielewski, Andrzej Micewski, Stanislaw Stomma, Jozefa Hennelowa, Rev. Prof. Jozef Zycinski, Bogdan Cywinski, and even his wife and son who had his column, Rev. Janusz St. Pasierb, Jerzy Kloczowski, Rev. Prof. Michal Heller, Rev. Mieczyslaw Malinski, Fr Jerzy Mirewicz, SJ, Prof. Julian Aleksandrowicz, Rev. Prof. Jozef Krukowski, Tadeusz Zychiewicz, Prof. Stanislaw Grygiel, Marek Ruszczyc, Rev. Prof. Jerzy Wolny...
Development of ‘Niedziela’
Since the beginning the shrine of Jasna Gora has been present in a special way in the reactivated ‘Niedziela.’ The first editorial board included Fr Jerzy Tomzinski, a Pauline Father, appointed as editor of ‘Niedziela’ by Bishop Stefan Barela. Then the long-term collaborators of the weekly included: Fr Jan Pach, Fr Robert M. Lukaszuk, Fr Stanislaw Tomon as well as the photograph of Jasna Gora Mr Krzysztof Swiertok. The person of Fr Tomzinski was a bridge between the history of ‘Niedziela’ and its reactivation. Since as a young boy he was a distributor of ‘Niedziela’ in his parish in Przystajnia, and then as a monk he met Bishop Kubina, the founder of the weekly, and Fr Marchewka, its first editor-in-chief. ‘Niedziela’ directed by Fr Skubis has been seen as a Marian paper, which results from the location of the editorial board at the feet of Jasna Gora and the great cult of Our Lady of Jasna Gora by the Editor-in-Chief. One can say that he has been fulfilling the words of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski faithfully, printed in the first issue of the reactivated ‘Niedziela’ on 7 June 1981, which are regarded as the last will of the Primate of the Millennium for the weekly. Those words were noted on the deathbed of Cardinal Wyszynski. And then he said, ‘Numerous pilgrims flowing from the slopes of Jasna Gora to places all over Poland, besides having the supernatural power received at the feet of the Mother of the Church, should carry rich social communications in the press in the Catholic spirit.’ In some other fragment of the Primate’s will we can read, ‘I want to make the Marian spirituality as if a speciality of this paper that is to work in the extremely Marian Diocese of Czestochowa.’ Today one can say that ‘Niedziela’ is the prolonged arm of Jasna Gora to Poland and to the world. And the consecutive generals of the Pauline Order, currently Fr Izydor Matuszewski, are very friendly towards ‘Niedziela’ and so are the priors – at present Fr Roman Majewski.
People of ‘Niedziela’
Besides Fr Ireneusz Skubis and Fr Jerzy Tomzinski the first editorial-administrative team of the reactivated ‘Niedziela’ included Fr Ludwik Warzybok, Fr Prof. Jozef Zyciński, Irena Makowicz and Sr. Teresa Okula. The undersigned was the first lay person who was formally employed in the new editorial board in 1981. Fr Stanislaw Tkocz, the editor-in-chief of ‘Gosc Niedzielny’, offered his kind help to organise the editorial work. He even proposed his collaborators: the retired accountant Wiktor Woryna and the graphic designer Jerzy Walter Brzoza, the author of the Marian medallion of ‘Niedziela’ that has become the seal of every cover of the weekly, to work in the start-up of the weekly. Another worker of ‘Niedziela’ was Mr Miron Kolakowski, a lawyer, who in the 1950s (as I have already mentioned) was in the group of the MPs who supported the efforts to reactivate ‘Niedziela’ appealing to the Speaker. And when ‘Niedziela’ returned to the press market he appealed against the decision of the Main Office of Press, Publications and Public Performances Control, interfering into the contents of articles and stopping the publication of some texts. The editors and readers were much astonished by the almost grotesque facts when the censor interfered into the text of the Bible, papal messages and even the news of the Russian Press Agency TASS.
Soon the following authors joined the editorial board of ‘Niedziela:’ Juliusz Jan Braun, Wojciech Skrodzki, Helena Orpych, Krzysztof Wielgut, Br. Stanislaw Romuald Rybicki, FSC, Maria Stypulkowska, Karol Klauza, Czeslaw Ryszka, Krystyna Czuba, Maciej Letowski as columnists. Fr Marian Mikolajczyk as well as Maria and Zbigniew Zmigrodkis collaborated with ‘Niedziela’ for a long time.
That’s how the latest history of ‘Niedziela’ began. Now it has lasted for 30 years under the watchful eye of its editor-in-chief Fr Ireneusz Skubis.
Currently, in the 85th year of the existence of ‘Niedziela’ one can say that Fr Ireneusz Skubis did not only win the title and began a new chapter of its existence but has also created a modern paper; moreover, a big multimedia institution the roof of which reaches the Kamchatka Peninsula and Alaska. Many employees of ‘Niedziela’ still remember the offices with type-writers and a printing workshop with linotypes, resembling small steel works. And together we have lived to the times when the editorial board is completely computerised and the electronic network replaced Gutenberg’s printing machines. One can say that throughout these 30 years the Editor-in-Chief has brought the paper to another epoch: from pencil to computer or in other words, from linotype to InDesign. Thanks to the Internet the paper is accessible in Polish, and partly in English, Italian and Russian, in every corner of the world, and even in the audio version for the blind and visually impaired people. ‘Niedziela’ has a national edition and almost 20 diocesan editions as well as radio and TV studios, webpage, publishing series of the Library of ‘Niedziela’ with almost 300 titles and ‘Moje Pismo Tecza’ for the youngest readers.
And the Editor-in-Chief is a daily commentator on Radio Fiat, Radio Jasna Gora and every week on Radio Maryja, besides editing the weekly, directing the editorial board and writing articles. He is not afraid of new challenges and has numerous new ideas.
The Catholic media are facing great challenges today, which is connected with the invasion of the materialistic lifestyle forced by the rich of this world. Currently, most media are serving concrete political, ideological and economic interests. Secular papers, TV and radio channels as well as information agencies are centred in several rich media concerns for which the criterion of the truth and objectivism are less important than the criterion of the market. It means that what only counts is the information which receivers of the increasingly more modern and colourful media buy eagerly. In our times one should decidedly go against the current to save the fundamental values and not allow banks to become the sanctuaries of the world and not allow the secular media to rule over all spheres of life. In this struggle for the truth and values Fr Ireneusz Skubis is in the first front of the battlefield.
The Editor-in-Chief of ‘Niedziela’ is a charismatic priest, man-institution, always surrounded by people, always with a ringing telephone. And – to the astonishment of the surrounding – he answers phone calls from all people. He is a man of media and fast contacts with the world.
‘Window to the universal Church,’ ‘Bridge connecting the nation with Jasna Gora, spiritual capital of Poles,’ ‘Space for the meeting between the Polish community and Homeland’ are the terms used by faithful readers of ‘Niedziela’ from all over the world. It turns out that readers notice that in spite of many social-political turbulences, various international trends proposing, and actually imposing a model of life without God, ‘Niedziela’ is trying to discern the signs of the times. Faithful to the Church the weekly is firmly rooted in the heritage of the patron saints of Europe, in the fathers’ faith, and first of all, it draws from the big spiritual and intellectual treasury of Blessed John Paul II and the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI. It courageously faces the taunts, characteristic of a big provocation of the contemporary world that is going always from God more and more although it needs God very much.
The editorial board is maintaining a vivid correspondence with its readers. It often becomes their confessor and advisor. It accompanies the lonely in finding friends and helping the sick receive medical care. And if you saw the editorial album embracing the texts that are not allowed in time to be published, we could make a specific cabaret of ‘Niedziela.’ Here are some examples, ‘A Marian fashion is obligatory during pilgrimages,’ ‘The Marian cult is of rescue character;’ ‘It were yet children, not angels,’ ‘Ten men and three priests came for the meeting,’ ‘Sorry for the defects, I am 85.’
Our wishes for the Chief
On the occasion of the 85th and 30th anniversaries of ‘Niedziela as well as 50 years of priesthood of Rev. Msgr. Ireneusz Skubis we are expressing the following wishes: may ‘Niedziela’ under his leadership take people from the increasingly materialistic world as effectively as possible and teach them to look up to heaven; may ‘Niedziela’ give its Readers the latest news and also signposts to deepen their faith and help them grow in sanctity; may it shorten man’s way to the Church and the world. May the last words of the predecessor of Fr Skubis at the post of the editor-in-chief Fr Antoni Marchewka in his memoirs come true. He expressed his hope that there would be times when the resurrected ‘Niedziela’ would serve God’s work ‘for salvific benefits of the Catholic society in Poland.’ May ‘Niedziela’ continue under the leadership of its present Chief who has been experienced in struggling for God’s matters.