The fake war against the Beatles

VATICAN CITY — Many news headlines over the past week contained some variant of: “Vatican forgives/makes peace with/absolves the Beatles!”

The Beatles are pictured in an undated photo released by Capitol Records. From left are: George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (CNS photo/Capitol Records)

It came after the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article April 10 praising the pop group, saying their “beautiful melodies are like precious jewels.”

It’s certainly not the first time the Vatican newspaper has paid tribute to the band. Here and here are just the most recent examples of praise.

So obviously the paper’s editors seemed surprised that the press would think the Fab Four had been on some sort of hate-list of theirs.

In an effort to show that the L’Osservatore Romano had never been part of the wave of contempt and condemnation that swept across America and other parts of the world in 1966 when John Lennon remarked that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the paper reprinted an article it ran Aug. 14, 1966 — the same month Lennon’s quip was taken out of context by an American teen magazine and sparked protests nationwide.

Today’s edition of the Vatican paper says that the Beatles never needed the paper’s absolution and that their 1966 story shows there was “already back then, an unexpected consonance between the Vatican newspaper and John Lennon.”

L’Osservatore Romano’s original 1966 story talked about the negative impact Lennon’s remark had on the public and how record sales had plummeted in just a few days. It said such an upheaval made Lennon publicly reflect on his comment, which the paper surmised, was not really a reflection of his being impious, but rather being flippant. He obviously hadn’t thought about the kind of impact a comment about Christ and religion would have on people, it said.

The 1966 article then provided ample quotes of a statement Lennon made in August in Chicago where the Beatles headed for the first leg of their first tour in the United States.

In the statement Lennon explained how it had never crossed his mind to say anything against religion. He said his remark that the group was bigger than Jesus was part of a larger discussion in which he deplored the fact that people, especially young people, cared more about the Beatles than Jesus and religion.

Lennon, in fact, spoke out often about how that remark had been taken out of context from the original interview that appeared in a British publication in March 1966.

Here are the transcripts of two interviews the Beatles did in Chicago explaining Lennon’s true intentions: Aug. 11, 1966 and Aug. 12, 1966.

Lennon also did an interview in Montreal with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1969 saying the Beatles were a Christian band that wanted to bring people closer to God and that Lennon considered himself as “one of Christ’s biggest fans.”

Papal secretary marks boss’ anniversary with a book

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI isn’t the only resident of the Apostolic Palace involved in writing and publishing.

After having collaborated on children’s books about Pope Benedict XVI, Msgr. Georg Ganswein — his personal secretary — is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the pope’s election with his own book, “Benedict XVI: Urbi et Orbi,” looking at the pope’s public encounters with the faithful and with other visitors in Rome and around the world.

Msgr. Ganswein and Pope Benedict XVI at a weekly general audience in January. (CNS/Paul Haring)

On all the trips and at each encounter, Msgr. Ganswein has had a front-row seat. But it’s not a tell-all book by any stretch of the imagination. Its 90-odd pages are filled with photographs and quotes from papal speeches, along with brief introductory notes from the papal secretary.

A joint project of the Vatican publishing house and Germany’s Verlag Herder, the book was distributed to journalists yesterday. So far, it is available only in Italian and German.

The main focus is on Pope Benedict’s trips abroad, but there also are pages dedicated to his visits to Rome parishes and Catholic charitable agencies and to cities throughout Italy.

Describing the pope’s April 2008 visit to the United States, Msgr. Ganswein said the pope arrived “in a country deeply wounded and suffering.”

“What would Benedict XVI say about the sexual abuse of minors by churchmen? What would he say at ground zero where the Twin Towers stood before a terrorist attack cut them down, causing the deaths of thousands of people?” Msgr. Ganswein asked.

“The pope was not afraid of calling the incomprehensible by name. He met privately with the victims of sexual abuse, and at the place where thousands died, he did not speak of vengeance, but of forgiveness,” the secretary wrote.

Msgr. Ganswein ends the book with an essay titled, “The End of a Trip is the Eve of Another.” He points out that the pope is going to Malta this weekend, to Portugal May 11-14, to Cyprus June 4-6, to England and Scotland Sept. 16-19; and to Spain Nov. 6-7.

He said that just as thousands of people want to come to Rome to meet the pope, the pope wants to travel to meet them.

“As Catholics even those who are not fortunate enough to meet the pope personally have the privilege of belonging — together with the Successor of Peter — to a worldwide community, which although not perfect, for 2,000 years has proclaimed in every tongue the good news that God loves humanity and that death does not have the last word, because that belongs to God, who is full of love for us.”

As for book writing, Msgr. Ganswein repeated what has been reported several times: the second volume of Pope Benedict’s book on Jesus of Nazareth “will appear soon.”