By David Willey
BBC News, Rome
At the time radio stations banned their music and concerts were cancelled
A Vatican newspaper has forgiven the late English singer John Lennon for saying four decades ago that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
In an article praising The Beatles, L'Osservatore Romano said Lennon had just been showing off.
Lennon told a British newspaper in 1966 - at the height of Beatlemania - that he did not know which would die out first, Christianity or rock and roll.
At the time, the comparison sparked controversy in the US.
The semi-official Vatican newspaper marked the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' "White Album" with an article praising Lennon and the Fab Four from Liverpool.
The paper dismissed Lennon's much-criticised remark that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ as a youthful joke.
The paper described the remark as "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".
Charles Wheeler on the reaction to Jo