The Vatican forgives Lennon for Jesus remarks

A Vatican newspaper has forgiven John Lennon for claiming in 1966 that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

An article praising The Beatles in the L'Osservatore Romano newspaper said Lennon had merely been showing off.

In March 1966 the London Evening Standard published an interview with John Lennon in which the singer told journalist Maureen Cleave that "We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity".

The remarks were republished around the world, sparking controversy in the United States and elsewhere.

L'Osservatore Romano is the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, which often runs entertainment articles alongside papal speeches and other religious reports.

The lengthy article was published to mark the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' White Album. It praised Lennon and the group, and claimed that the controversial remark was "showing off, bragging by a young English working-class musician who had grown up in the age of Elvis Presley and rock and roll and had enjoyed unexpected success".

It also heralded The Beatles for their "unique and strange alchemy of sounds and words," and described the White Album as a "magical musical anthology".

The fact remains that 38 years after breaking up, the songs of the Lennon-McCartney brand have shown an extraordinary resistance to the passage of time, becoming a source of inspiration for more than one generation of pop musicians.
L'Osservatore Romano

Lennon's 1966 remarks were reprinted in an American magazine four months after the Evening Standard interview was published. It led to public burnings of Beatles records, their songs being banned on radio stations, and anti-Beatles demonstrations organised by the Ku Klux Klan.

The Beatles received death threats during their final US tour. The Vatican denounced Lennon and Beatles albums were banned in South Africa.

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Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.

11 responses on “The Vatican forgives Lennon for Jesus remarks

  1. JG

    Oh, come on, Sean, gimme a break.
    By that standard, you’re saying the Pope has no real power or significance, and that nothing is ever decided by him, it is only decided by God.
    Not that I believe in the Pope’s holiness, anyway, but still, it’s a friggin comment, and he was right. Given the choice, people would rather see the Beatles than go to church. You know YOU would.

  2. Sabby

    I would’ve rather seen the Beatles than go to church… I mean, i don’t go to church really anyway, but still.
    John was right, it’s the religious nuts that took it too far.

  3. mr. Sun king coming together

    i think people are missing Something. He did not say “Screw you God, We are more awesome than Jesus”, He said they were more Popular, not at all the same thing.

  4. steelyglenn

    I think you’re all right. and I happen to be a Christian. The thing is, no matter how John said it, he was actually right. He was UNWISE TO SAY IT, but he was probably correct. But If John hadn’t apologized, But instead told Christians to “Piss Off” The Beatles might not have ended up being so popular afterward… Unfortunately, The Beatles were probably more popular than Jesus and Christianity at that time. But Jesus wasn’t trying to win a popularity contest… :)

  5. JKH

    Nobody needs “forgiveness” for making a statement of fact, or for expressing an opinion which may or may not comport with the facts.

    Had the “Christians” who reacted so strongly to John’s statement taken time to reflect on what he was saying, they might have found that they actually agreed with him, and that there was much sermon-worthy material to be gained from his remarks.

    I was a young, aspiring altar boy interested in the priesthood and a Beatle fan when John made those remarks, and I understood immediately exactly where he was coming from. Jesus ostensibly offered eternal life. All the Beatles offered was music. Yet the youth of the day were unenthusiastic about Jesus—until provoked, that is—and manic about the Beatles. John’s message was really one of, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Clearly there was a disconnect, anyone paying any attention at all could see it clearly, and youth leaders were extremely uncomfortable with it. The more fundamentalist they were, the more uncomfortable they were.

    If they hadn’t had so much anxiety, those church leaders could have said, “John’s right. Why do you get so much more excited about people who offer you so much less than Jesus does?” Perhaps they were loathe to expose their flocks’ weak faith and hypocrisy to themselves.

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