Hans Küng (b. 1928)

Roman Catholic Theologian & Advocate for Interfaith Cooperation

There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions.
Hans Küng


Hans Küng has been a Roman Catholic theologian of astounding breadth through his prolific writing. His writings have sparked many controversies, especially when he raised theological questions about papal infallibility. That stand by Küng resulted in Pope John Paul II withdrawing Küng’s official permission to teach as a theologian in Catholic universities, though he remains a priest. Coming from within the context of a church where infallible teaching is claimed in some areas, Küng has become a dramatic leading voice for ecumenical and interreligious relationship.

Teaching Career & Role in Catholic Theology

Küng was born in Switzerland and studied with some of the world’s greatest Christian theologians in Rome and Paris. He taught theology at Tübingen University in Germany until the papal withdrawal of his official capacity to teach on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. So he moved into an independent position with the Institute for Ecumenical Research, also at Tübingen University.

Prior to the controversy that cost him his teaching position, Küng played a major role in shaping Catholic theology. He was involved as an expert theological advisor at the groundbreaking Vatican II council in 1962-1965.

Role as an Interfaith Advocate

Emphasis on Cooperation & Rejecting Exclusivity

Küng became a key voice in interfaith gatherings. He held that truth is absolute, but because of the limitations of our humanity our perceptions about that truth have to be provisional. When applied in the context of interreligious relationships, he maintained his personal Christian commitment, but felt that claims of exclusivity and superiority by any religion needed to be abandoned. Religious leaders should stop competing and start cooperating. This cooperation is especially needed in the face of global issues that threaten all of humanity. For Küng ethics needs to be made a global and interreligious concern. Issues of peace, vital for the survival of humanity, necessarily entail finding the way to religious peace. Küng said, There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.

Spiritual Humility

In particular there is a need for spiritual humility. Assuming that only one religion has the fullness of truth is inadequate for this time in our history according to Küng. Every religion has its problems, and every religion has something of value for the larger human community.

As a matter of fact, you have deficiencies in all religions, but you have truth in all religions. There are points where I think, for instance, Judaism or Buddhism are more constructive than the Catholic position, and vice versa.”

A Declaration of Solidarity

Küng participated in the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions. He drafted the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic which was adopted by the Parliament. The Declaration dealt with issues of ecology, poverty, social injustice, and aggression in the name of religion. Religious leaders must take responsibility for shaping a better global order for the sake of human rights, freedom, justice, peace and the preservation of Earth. The declaration included a commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life, to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order, to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness, and to a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women.

Küng continues to work along these lines of global interreligious cooperation in the context of the United Nations Dialogue Among Civilizations, a project in which Küng served as one of 19 eminent persons pursuing the project. While some write about the clash of civilizations, Küng has dedicated himself to finding the way for people to talk together, find common ground, and work collaboratively to solve the huge challenges that lay before the entire human community.

See Also

Related Interfaith Peacemakers Profiles

Relevant External Resources