Edmonton, September 12, 2016 - The Western Catholic Reporter, a newspaper born 51 years ago in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, will publish its last issue on September 26.

The announcement was made today (Monday) by the newspaper’s publisher, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, who said the WCR’s print and online presence will transition in the coming months to a daily online news portal, which will be the centrepiece for a new focus on digital communications in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

Several positions at the WCR will be eliminated, including that of Editor Glen Argan, who has served in his current position since 1991. Lorraine Turchansky, who has directed the Communications Office since 2008, will continue as Chief Communications Officer.

The change is in response to the call Pope Francis made to the entire Church for pastoral conversion, in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

“People today need to have the Gospel’s message of beauty, joy, peace and love communicated with clarity and conviction. The need remains urgent, and thus the pope summons us to an ecclesial renewal ‘that cannot be deferred,’” Archbishop Smith said in an outline of his vision to staff. “Such reform pertains not only to the Church’s disciples but also her very structures. Structures must change as necessary in order to be clearly and effectively oriented to mission.

“Among the most important of the Church’s structures are those which serve the ministry of communications,” he said. “In the Archdiocese of Edmonton, communications serves the Church’s mission of evangelization by informing, inspiring, and telling the story of Catholic life right here — the story of how faith in Jesus Christ is proclaimed and lived in the lives of ordinary Catholics and in the ministries of the Church.”

The Archbishop noted that the media environment, the way stories are told, and the way people consume news are changing rapidly. “In order that Christ be proclaimed, the Church must be fully conversant with this evolving environment and effectively present in the midst of it.”

 “It is important that we find new and more effective means to engage our people, wherever they may be on their faith journey and wherever they may look for their news of the day.”

“Accordingly, I have directed that our Office of Communications be reviewed and updated. I do not mean this as a critique of current and past practices. On the contrary, these have been excellent.”

The WCR has a rich legacy in Catholic journalism and has been repeatedly recognized for excellence by the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada and the Canadian Church Press. It began as a weekly on Sept. 9, 1965, under the leadership of Editor Doug Roche, a veteran journalist who would go on to become a Canadian senator.

Its circulation peaked around 32,000 under a model that saw the paper delivered free to all registered parishioners, financed largely by an annual assessment on parish Sunday collections.

In 2014, the WCR changed to a biweekly with a paid subscription model, and circulation has since dropped to under 7,000, a fraction of the 30,000 households registered with parishes in the Archdiocese. Its closure leaves Canada with three major Catholic newspapers.

For the full text of the Archbishop’s statement, download The Vision for Communications in the Archdiocese of Edmonton