Prominent Vatican critic Hans Küng dies at 93

Küng, standing next to a bust during a ceremony in 2005. Keystone/Bernd Weissbrod

Swiss theologian Hans Küng, one of the most outspoken critics of the Roman Catholic church, has died aged 93.

This content was published on April 7, 2021 - 10:55

Küng passed away in the German town of Tübingen, where he had lived and lectured since the 1960s, his Global Ethic FoundationExternal link announced on Tuesday.

He gained a reputation as a prolific writer, promoting dialogue among religions as well as challenging the Vatican, notably for his controversial views on papal infallibility.

Küng was one of the youngest theologians advising bishops at the Vatican Council in the 1960s. He lost his licence to teach at Catholic universities in 1979 over his frequent criticism on issues such as priestly celibacy, the church policy on governance, liturgy, birth control, abortion and mixed marriages as well as the ban on women priests.

Küng often expressed public support for the demands of grassroots organisations and called for more democracy in the church.

He later became professor of ecumenical theology in Tübingen until his retirement in 1996. Küng remained a Catholic priest and in 2011 he co-founded the Global Ethic Foundation.

He also held numerous honorary doctorates from universities in the United States and Britain, as well as awards and honours, notably the 1991 Swiss culture prize.

‘Idealist without illusions’

Church leaders and personalities in Switzerland and neighbouring Germany have paid tribute to Küng as a rebellious reformer, genuine, and of strong character.

His critics perceived him as brilliant, over-elaborate and disrespectful.

In its obituary the New York Times quoted Küng as saying he was “an idealist without illusions” and “I have not easy optimism, but serious hope”.

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