Hans Küng, a Swiss Catholic theologian very critical of the Church, died Tuesday in Tübingen (Germany) at the age of 93, announced the Foundation for a Planetary Ethics, which he had founded. “With Hans Küng, we lose the charismatic and impressive creator of the Foundation and a visionary thinker for a more just and peaceful world,” the Foundation said in a statement.
Born March 19, 1928 in Switzerland, Hans Küng was emeritus professor of ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen (southwest). The cause of the death of this promoter of dialogue between religions has not been specified.
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Liberal, popular and stubborn
Hans Küng’s positions had won him a teaching ban by the Vatican as early as 1979. However, they had also made him very popular. If Pope John Paul II withdrew his “missio canonica” (right to teach Catholic theology), he did not succeed in silencing it. The Lucernois even continued to teach in Tübingen, without being affiliated with the Faculty of Theology, as well as throughout the world as a visiting professor. “From the country of William Tell, I inherited a certain firmness which often displeases the hierarchy”, he declared. The ethicist further openly called the Polish Pope an authoritarian oppressor of women and theologians.
Born in Sursee (LU), son of a shoemaker, Hans Küng taught in Tübingen for 36 years at Eberhard-Karl University, before retiring in 1996. In 1995, he co-founded the Foundation for ethics global, active in intercultural and interreligious education and research. Since 2013, he had been living withdrawn from public life for health reasons.
Eight times honorary doctorate, Hans Küng has been translated into twenty languages. His more than 50 books, including several “bestsellers”, have been read in a wide variety of cultural, social and religious circles. Hans Küng, who was one of the most famous Swiss abroad, engaged in his writings for a tolerant and open Switzerland. He is also known for his views in favor of priestly marriage, the ordination of women, contraception, and liberation theology.
Some of his works are considered to be true innovations in 20th century theology, such as his trilogy “Being a Christian”, “Does God Exist?” And “Eternal Life?”. A liberal theologian, Hans Küng was vigorously committed to broadening the horizon of the Catholic Church, which drew on him the wrath of the Roman hierarchy.
Facing Benedict XVI and pedophilia
To everyone’s surprise, Hans Küng was received by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. During this audience dedicated to his founding, annoying subjects had been carefully avoided. The two men certainly spoke of the good old days: both taught in Tübingen. And when it rained, Hans Küng used to take the cyclist Ratzinger in his Alfa Romeo. More recently, in 2010, the theologian demanded that Pope Benedict XVI do his “mea culpa” on how pedophilia cases within the Church had been handled for decades.
Hans Küng had also not spared the attitude of the German episcopate and its president, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, shaken by a series of revelations of former sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy.
Praise for François
The Swiss theologian, on the other hand, spoke highly of praise for Francis, the current pope. In his 2015 book, “Sieben Päpste”, he said of the Argentinian that he profoundly changed the atmosphere of the Roman curia system through his direct language, his atypical lifestyle in relation to the curia and his call to the gospel.
A renowned intellectual, Hans Küng has been awarded numerous prizes. The Union of Evangelical Churches of Germany awarded him the Karl Barth Prize 1992. In 1994 he received the German Federal Merit Cross of First Class. The Cultural Prize of Central Switzerland was also awarded to him in 1991. And in 1998, Hans Küng was made an honorary bourgeois of his birthplace, Sursee.