Pope Saint John XXIII (born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli; 25 November 1881 – 3 June 1963) reigned as Pope from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963 and was canonized on 27 April 2014. In a consistory on 12 January 1953, Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a cardinal as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in addition to naming him as the Patriarch of Venice. Pope John XXIII surprised those who expected him to be a caretaker pope by calling the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the first session opening on 11 October 1962. His passionate views on equality were summed up in his famous statement: “We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.” Pope John XXIII did not live to see the Vatican Council to completion. John XXIII today is affectionately known as the “Good Pope”. (More from Wikipedia)
John Lennon made the Beatles an easy target by his remark, but the fact is that church attendance was declining in England and elsewhere in Europe, a pattern that continued in the US some years later. Although Pope Paul VI denounced Lennon’s statement (and actually Pope Benedict XVI apologized for this church stance in 2010), there were few church leaders joining the denunciation of the Beatles, since the Church was going through an intense period of re-examination in this time period. For example, the Jesuit newspaper America wrote about the controversy: “[John] Lennon was simply stating what many a Christian educator would readily admit.”
Earlier that year, on April 8, 1966, the cover of Time magazine famously asked: “Is God Dead?” Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, an earthshaking event in the Roman Catholic Church that attempted to re-frame Catholic teachings in a modern context, leading (among many other major changes) to services being conducted in the language of the people attending rather than Latin. The ramifications remain strongly controversial to this day.