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Hans Küng 1928-

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(Hans Kueng) Swiss theologian.

The following entry presents an overview of Küng's career through 1998.

Hans Küng is one of the world's most celebrated and controversial Christian theologians. A Roman Catholic priest, his criticism of Pope John Paul II and his questioning of some of the major tenets of the Catholic religion have caused him to be censured by the Church. Despite the controversial nature of his ideas, critics have praised him for his scholarly, well-researched, and ecumenical approach to questions of theology.

Biographical Information

Hans Küng was born on March 19, 1928, in Sursee, Lucerne, Switzerland, to Hans and Emma Küng. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1954. In the 1960s, Küng was an up-and-coming member of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. During the reign of Pope John XXIII, Küng was appointed the official theologian to the Second Vatican Council and is recognized as its architect. Küng's relationship with Rome changed during the reign of subsequent popes whom he felt were reversing the important reforms set in motion by Vatican II. In 1979, in response to Küng's controversial examination of Catholic beliefs, the Vatican forbade Küng to call himself a “Catholic theologian” or to examine candidates for the priesthood. Küng was personally devastated by the Church's disciplinary measures, but his commitment to his faith and his career as a theologian continued to flourish. Küng is a professor of theology at the University of Tubingen in West Germany. He has also been a visiting professor at several universities throughout the world.

Major Works

Küng has been particularly critical of Pope John Paul II and what he considers the pontiff's repressive policies. He has written several articles on the subject. Wozu Priester? (1971; Why Priests?) delineates Küng's conception of the leadership of the Church. As with many of Küng's works, this book raised eyebrows among conservative theologians by espousing that a lifelong, celibate, male priesthood is unnecessary according to the New Testament. In Christ sein (1974; On Being a Christian), Küng described what is common among the various Christian religions and discussed the reasons a person would choose to believe in Christianity. The book focuses on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ and the nature of his divinity. Signposts for the Future (1978) is a collection of essays that reiterates the uniqueness of Christianity explained in On Being a Christian. It further goes on to discuss Christians' relationship with larger society and their relationship with the Church. Beginning with Christentum und Weltreligionen (1984; Christianity and the World Religions), Küng began to focus on the relationship between Christianity and the other major world religions. He collaborated with Julia Ching on Christentum und Chinesische Religion (1989; Christianity and Chinese Religions) in which they analyze the place of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity in modern China. Kung's Theologie im Aufbruch (1988; Theology for the Third Millennium) asserts that the postmodern Church lacks direction and proposes a course that will cause it to flourish and bring it to a closer relationship with the other world religions. Projekt Welthethos (1993; Global Responsibility is a continuation of the ideas set forth in Christianity and the World Religions. Kung asserted three points in this volume: our survival is dependent on the development of a world ethic; we can have no world peace without peace between the religions; and there will be no peace between the religions without a dialogue between the religions. In his attempt to foster a greater understanding between people of different faiths, Kung has begun a trilogy tracing the foundations of the major religions, including volumes entitled Judentum (1992; Judaism),

(The entire section contains 934 words.)

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Principal Works