Pope Benedict XVI on "friendly" talk with his critic

Pope Benedict XVI granted an audience to one of his fiercest critics, the dissident Swiss theologian Hans Kueng, and the two had a "friendly" theological discussion, Kueng and the Vatican said Monday.

The meeting occurred Saturday, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.

"The two agreed that there was no sense in entering, within the confines of the meeting, in a dispute surrounding the persistent doctrinal questions between Hans Kueng and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church," the statement said.

The two did, however, discuss other theological issues, including the question of global ethics and the dialogue between scientific reason and the reason of Christian faith, Navarro-Valls and Kueng said.

Kueng 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, 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 Kueng's disciplining, he was reportedly involved in the decision in his role as archbishop of Munich and Freising.

Ratzinger has publicly criticized Kueng's writings, and Kueng called his old colleague's election "an enormous disappointment for all those who hoped for a reformist and pastoral pope," although he gave him 100 days to "learn."

In an interview with The Associated Press from his home in Tuebingen on Monday, Kueng said the audience lasted several hours and was "very constructive and even a friendly conversation."

He said the two had known each other for decades, but had had a falling out after he questioned the infallibility of the pope.

"I am sure that this will be seen in the Catholic world, and even more than that, as a hopeful sign because it shows that he has more positive intentions than maybe what was seen at the beginning."

Kueng and the pope had been colleagues at Tuebingen university, and it was Kueng who had urged the university's theology department to hire the young Ratzinger. The two also attended the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s.


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