Catholic dissident hails meeting with Benedict XVI
27 September 2005
ROME – Catholicism’s most influential dissident, Hans Kueng, 77, on Tuesday hailed his surprise meeting with Pope Benedict XVI as a sign that the Church is willing to listen to and confront its critics.
The rebel Swiss theologian said Joseph Ratzinger of Germany invited him to dinner Saturday and they chatted for four hours the same way as when they had both been brilliant young theologians at Tuebingen University in Germany.
In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur in Tuebingen, the priest said he was not seeking a restoration of his ‘Missio Canonica’ licence to teach theology, which was taken away from him by the Vatican in 1979.
“Even without it I can pursue a recognized Catholic theology that I do not force on anyone as the only right one,” he said.
A Vatican statement said “the meeting unfolded in a friendly atmosphere” while Kueng spoke of his “immense joy” at being able to speak to the head of Catholicism after a wait lasting 25 years.
Kueng said Tuesday he was pleased that media comments on the meeting had not applauded either man at the other’s expense.
“This is not a withdrawn pope who looks to the past. He looks at the situation as it is and is capable of listening,” Kueng, who only last April had described Joseph Ratzinger’s election as “a disappointment” for reformists, told Rome-based daily La Repubblica.
Speaking to DPA, Kueng said: “It shows the pope is not obsessed with the past, but is keeping his options open and is willing to do unconventional things that even the innermost Vatican circles don’t expect.”
A liberal who opposes, among other things, the celibacy rule for priests, Kueng was stripped of his authority to teach at Catholic universities after he questioned the pope’s infallibility.
Kueng said he was able to have a constructive discussion at the pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, on two of the issues that most concern him: the relationship between science and religion and the role of the Roman Catholic Church in modern society.
“It is a sign of hope for many Catholics and for many people in the world that two so different people as we are nevertheless agreed on many things with regard to the future of the world,” Kueng told the New York Times.
According to Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, “The pope appreciated professor Kueng’s effort to contribute to a renewed recognition of the essential values of humanity through the dialogue of religions and the meeting with secular reason.”
Kueng and Ratzinger, 78, were once close friends both eager to modernize the church, but fell out after Ratzinger’s decision to become a staunch defender of orthodoxy.
According to Marco Politi, a Vatican expert writing for Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, the meeting suggested that Ratzinger has an open mind in addressing some of the most fundamental issues facing society today.
“We will have to get used to surprises with Benedict XVI,” Politi said.
Subject: German news