Swiss theologian Fr Hans Küng, whose right to teach was withdrawn in 1979 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith(CDF), died reconciled with the Vatican, according to the former President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper.
In a telephone call last summer (2020), when it was evident that Küng no longer had long to live, “Pope Francis asked me to convey his greetings and his blessings to him ‘in Christian communion’”, Kasper recalled. “Hans was overjoyed. It was important for him. He now felt reconciled with the Church and with Pope Francis”, Kasper told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the day after Küng died.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI had also known how serious Küng’s condition was and was praying for him, Kasper said.
He (Kasper) and Küng had known each other since the 1950’s, the cardinal recalled. “We had different views but we always stayed in touch”. Küng had been a “harsh critic and sometimes unjust, but in the depth of his heart he always remained in the Church and never thought of leaving it. He wanted to do the best for the Church from the inside and remained a Christian and a Catholic”, he emphasised.
Küng’s theological writings, in plain and intelligible language, had “helped many people to find the faith or to remain in the Church”, Kasper recalled.
As to demands for the Vatican formally to rehabilitate Küng – “There is no point in starting a procedure when the person concerned is dying. A different judgement awaits us”, Kasper said.
Küng had differed with the Vatican on several points of church teaching such as the contraceptive pill and women’s ordination but the main point of friction had been his rejection of papal infallibility. “The Vatican did not like the way he rejected the dogma – and neither did I”, the cardinal said.
The Pontifical Academy for Life paid tribute to Küng on 7 April. He was a "great figure in theology in the 20th century", the academy tweeted. His ideas and analyses "compelled reflection" on the Catholic Church, society and culture.
Neither the Pope nor the Pope Emeritus had as of Wednesday evening commented on Küng’s death.
Hans Küng will be buried in the old city graveyard (“alter Stadtfriedhof”) in Tübingen.