Polish weekly withdrawn from some outlets amid John Paul II row

Pope John Paul II statue stands in front of a church in Warsaw

WARSAW (Reuters) - A satirical weekly featuring an image of late Pope John Paul II holding a baby doll on a cross was withdrawn from sale in post offices and state-controlled petrol stations in Poland on Tuesday, amid a fierce debate over his handling of child abuse cases.

Accusations in a new book and television documentary that the first Polish pope knowingly covered up clerical paedophilia scandals when he was archbishop of Krakow have stoked division and outrage in one of Europe's most devoutly Roman Catholic nations.

While many people have said the allegations should lead to a reassessment of John Paul's legacy, religious conservatives condemn what they see as a left-wing plot to discredit a figure who is at the core of the nation's identity. He was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005.

The image featured on the cover of the satirical and strongly anticlerical Nie (No) weekly, which was founded by Jerzy Urban, spokesman for the Communist governments of Poland in the 1980s and called the "Goebbels of martial law" by the anti-communist opposition.

Urban remained its editor in chief until his death last year.

Daniel Obajtek, chief executive of state-controlled Polish oil company PKN Orlen, said on Twitter that the group was withdrawing the latest issue of the publication from its sales outlets.

"We have room for all press titles, but there is no consent for hate speech and the destruction of the authority of Saint John Paul II," he wrote on Twitter.

Obajtek is a close ally of ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS). Under his leadership Orlen has expanded beyond its core oil business and owns newsagents and a local newspaper publisher.

The state-controlled post office also said it was withdrawing Nie from sale, although it did not explicitly link the decision to the image of the Pope.

"Due to calculations and business risks, we have decided to withdraw this press title, starting from the current issue," the post office told Reuters by email.

On its Twitter account, Nie labelled the post office's decision as a "scandal", and Obajtek's as "censorship".

Under Polish press law, it is illegal for distributors to limit the sale of publications due to their content or political line.

Poland's parliament passed a resolution on Thursday defending the name of John Paul II, mostly thanks to votes from the ruling PiS party.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, editing by Ed Osmond)