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