Pope and dissident theologian meet

POPE Benedict XVI had a “friendly” meeting with one of his fiercest critics — dissident Swiss theologian Hans Kueng, the Vatican said yesterday.

Benedict granted a Vatican audience to Mr Kueng, the latest indication that the Pope seems keen to reach out to prominent Catholics who fell from Rome’s grace during the last pontificate.

Last month, Benedict met with the head of the Society of St Pius X, the schismatic traditionalist movement whose leaders were excommunicated under Pope John Paul II. During Saturday’s audience, Benedict and Mr Kueng agreed “there was no sense” in entering into a dispute over the “persistent doctrinal questions” between Mr Kueng and the Catholic Church’s teaching, according to a statement from Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

They did, however, discuss other theological issues, including the question of global ethics and the dialogue between scientific reason and the reason of Christian faith.

Mr Kueng said the audience lasted several hours and was “very constructive and even a friendly conversation.”

He said it was too early to speak of a “reconciliation”, saying the meeting was more a sign of mutual respect.

“I do this in the hope that though we have taken increasingly different ways ... we are both Christians, we both serve the same church,” he said.

Mr Kueng, a priest, was stripped of the right to teach Catholic theology at the University of Tuebingen in Germany in 1979 after challenging Roman Catholic doctrines such as papal infallibility.

He has long been a critic of Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the Vatican’s orthodoxy chief since 1981. While Benedict was not at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the time of Mr Kueng’s disciplining, he was reportedly involved in the decision in his role as archbishop of Munich and Freising. Benedict has publicly criticised Mr Kueng’s writings, and Mr Kueng called his old colleague’s election “an enormous disappointment”.

Mr Kueng said the two had known each other for decades, but had a falling out after he questioned the Pope’s infallibility.

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