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Source: UNED Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, CC BY 2.0
Source: UNED Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, CC BY 2.0
World News

Controversial Catholic theologian Hans Küng dies aged 93

Hans Küng, one of the leading Catholic theologians of the last 50 years. has died.

Küng, who in later life had Parkinson's Disease, rose to prominence leading up to and during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) - a series of gatherings which addressed the relationship between the Catholic Church and the modern world. 

However, his relationship with the Vatican became fraught, coming to a head in 1979 when he was disowned by the papacy as a Catholic spokesperson in the early days of St. John Paul II's pontificate. Küng had criticised papal infallibility, mandatory celibacy for priests and the papacy of John Paul II himself.

Following Küng's critique, The Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), declared he could no longer be considered a Catholic theologian and removed his right to teach as professor of theology. However, he went on to have a distinguished career as an author and was seen as a pioneer in inter-religious dialogue.

Küng was born in the Swiss Canton of Lucerne. He studied theology in Rome, becoming ordained as a Catholic priest in 1954. He undertook a doctorate in theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris in 1957, going on to teach at the University of Tübingen in 1960 where he remained until his retirement in 1996.

He delivered a series of lectures on the future of the Roman Catholic Church just a week before Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council and he acted as a theological adviser to the council for three years. 

In 1971, he courted controversy with his book Infallible? in which he rejected the doctrine of papal infallibility. Other publications included Does God Exist? An Answer for Today, in which he discussed modern challenges to belief in God and offered an intellectual Christian response.

He was widely known for his book 'On Being a Christian' which became one of the biggest-selling books on religion when it was published in the UK in 1978. 

The declaration to revoke Küng's right to teach a year later forced him out of the Catholic faculty, but he continued to teach at Tübingen in the Institute for Ecumenical Research, which had an independent charter.

In the 1980s he advocated for a closer dialogue between Christians and those of other faiths and none. 

1986 saw the publication of his book 'Christianity and the World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.'

He questioned the Catholic Church's opposition to birth control and abortion and advocated for euthanasia. He was a supporter of Pope Francis, welcoming his different approach to his predecessors. Pope Francis responded favourably to Küng's call for further dialogue over papal infallibility.

Küng drafted a statement 'Declaration Toward a Global Ethic' illustrating his commitment to the common good across the religious spectrum. It was endorsed by more than 200 leaders of 40 different religious communities at the meeting of the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993. 

Küng died on 6th April. He had remained a priest until his death. 

You can read more about the life of Hans Küng at Premier Christianity Magazine.

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