By Vatican News
Swiss theologian Hans Küng died on Tuesday at the age of 93 in his home in Tübingen, Germany.
Born in Sursee on 19 March, 1928, he was ordained a priest in 1954. Three years later, in his dissertation for the doctorate, he argued for the convergence between Catholics and Reformed on the doctrine of Justification: he claimed that, in reality, the same thing is affirmed with different words. In 1960 he became professor at the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Tübingen, and later took part in the Second Vatican Council as an expert, where he had the opportunity to engage with Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.
In addition to having dedicated himself to the study of the history of religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, he was known for his positions in the theological and moral field, often critical of various points of Catholic doctrine. In particular, he spoke out against the dogma of papal infallibility as understood by the First Vatican Council. In 1979, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revoked his faculty to teach as a Catholic theologian, but he continued to work as professor emeritus of ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen.
The meeting between Benedict XVI and Küng
Hans Küng repeatedly criticised both St John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
At the beginning of Pope Benedict's pontificate, on 24 September 2005, a meeting took place between the two at Castel Gandolfo. In its report on the encounter, the Bulletin of the Vatican Press Office stressed that the meeting took place "in a friendly atmosphere": "Both parties were in agreement that it made no sense in the context of the meeting to enter into a dispute about persistent doctrinal questions between Hans Küng and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church." The conversation instead focused on two themes that were of "particular interest for the work of Hans Küng: the question of Weltethos (world ethics), and the dialogue between the reason of the natural sciences and the reason of the Christian faith".
The statement of the Press Office continued, saying Küng "emphasised that his project of Weltethos is in no way an abstract intellectual construction; rather, it highlights the moral values about which the great religions of the world converge, despite all their differences, and which can be perceived as valid criteria - given the convincing reasonableness of them - by secular reason." For his part, Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation of "Professor Küng's effort to contribute to a renewed recognition of the essential moral values of humanity through the dialogue of religions and in the encounter with secular reason," stressing "that the commitment to a renewed awareness of the values that sustain human life is also an important objective of his Pontificate." At the same time the Pope reaffirmed his agreement with Küng's attempt "to revive the dialogue between faith and the natural sciences and to assert, with regard to scientific thought, the reasonableness and necessity of the Gottesfrage (the question about God)." Küng - the communiqué concluded - expressed "his approval of the Pope's efforts in favor of the dialogue of religions and also of the encounter with the different social groups of the modern world".
In spite of this meeting, positions remained distant on many issues such as priestly celibacy, female priesthood, contraception, euthanasia.
In his research Küng also analyzed the relationship between faith and science, contesting the claims of some scientific theories to arrive at absolute certainties. In recent years he had slowed down his public activity, to the point of retiring to private life, for health reasons.