Leading article: A quick absolution

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The Independent Online

The Catholic Church, it used to be said, thinks not in decades but in centuries. No more. A mere 42 years after the Vatican castigated John Lennon for claiming the Beatles were more popular than Christ, that bellwether of papal thinking L' Osservatore Romano has overturned this condemnation, declaring Lennon's words to be the inconsequential boast of a "young working-class lad", while praising the Beatles' musical legacy.

One wonders what prompted this sudden change of heart – the sound of Hey Jude or Eleanor Rigby floating through the open window of Benedict XVI's apartment, perhaps? Galileo's ghost must be fuming. Accused of heresy in 1633 for suggesting the earth did not lie at the centre of the universe, Rome did not forgive him, or admit its own error, until 1992.

The Jews had to wait longer. Condemned by the early Church for deicide, their supposed guilt was not absolved by Rome until 1965, a wait of well over a millennium. Lennon was lucky.