Hans Küng was the initiator of the Global Ethic Project and founded the Global Ethic Foundation in 1995. Küng was a Catholic theologian and priest, a world-renowned pioneer regarding fundamental questions concerning Christian faith as well as in questions of church reform, Christian ecumenism and the dialogue between religions. His countless publications – including 73 monographs alone – have been translated into all the major world languages.
Learn more about the unique life of this pioneer of interreligious dialogue, his work and the path to the Global Ethic Foundation according to Hans Küng.
A LIFE'S JOURNEY – A LIFE'S WORK
Hans Küng is born on 19 March to a family of shoe-retailers in Sursee, Switzerland. Hans Küng has five sisters and two brothers – the first of whom dies, aged one, in 1936, the second in 1959.
On 12 March, the German Wehrmacht invades Austria. This is a surprise for Switzerland, which fears a similar fate. It is also a surprise for the then ten-year-old Hans, who begins reading the newspaper regularly on that day.
As a fifth-grader, the then 12-year-old, politically well-informed Hans writes the longest school essay of his life: 32 pages on the topic of “How the Second World War Broke Out!”
Upon graduating from the Gymnasium in Luzern, Hans Küng joins the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to study theology and philosophy from 1948 to 1955.
Hans Küng studies at the Sorbonne in Paris for a further two years, where he obtains his doctorate in theology in 1957 with a thesis on the teaching of the Protestant theologian Karl Barth on the subject of apologia.
Already in early years, Hans Küng develops into a convinced ecumenist working resolutely to overcome the schism in the church that has existed since the Reformation. This, however, makes him suspicious of the church leadership: In the “Holy Office” of the Roman Inquisition, Küng receives the protocol number 399/57i, which he retains for the rest of his life.
After his time as vicar at the Hofkirche Lucerne (1957–59) and as a research assistant for Catholic dogma in Münster (1959–60), Hans Küng is appointed professor of fundamental theology at the University of Tübingen. He was to live and work in Tübingen for the next 61 years.
At the age of 35, Hans Küng receives his first honorary doctorate at the University of St. Louis (Missouri) – 15 more honorary doctorates as well as countless prizes and awards will follow. On his lecture tour through the USA in 1963, Hans Küng fills the largest event halls with lectures on topics such as “Church and Freedom.”
Hans Küng is appointed Professor of Dogma and Ecumenical Theology as well as Director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research at the University of Tübingen. Küng makes his “ecumenical institute” an internationally recognized place of academic teaching and research. Likewise it becomes a much-respected forum for dialogue with representatives from science, religions, art and other areas of society.
Despite all progress, the Second Vatican Council, with all its reforms of the ecclesiastical system, falls far short of the expectations of Hans Küng – and with him - of countless Catholics worldwide. With his programmatic book “The Church”
Theology is also confronted with fundamental questions in the wake of the social changes initiated by the “student revolution” in 1968. Hans Küng tries to find answers through the publication of his books “Incarnation of God” (1970), his most important work “Being a Christian” (1974), the work central to his thought “Does God Exist?” (1978) as well as “Eternal Life?” (1982). “Being a Christian” and “Does God Exist?” are translated into the most important world languages within a very short period of time. This makes Hans Küng one of the few theologians to be widely discussed far beyond the realms of theology and the church.
Küng’s critique of the ecclesiastical system becomes harsher and finally leads to his sensational work “Infallible? An Unresolved Enquiry” - a fundamental critique of the Church’s dogma of infallibility and the starting point of its ongoing conflict with the Magisterium.
Hans Küng’s conflict with the Roman magisterium escalates: on 19 December 1979, the Vatican Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith revokes Hans Küng’s ecclesiastical teaching authority (missio canonica).
The “Tübingen Compromise” between the Church and the Ministry of Science secures Hans Küng's academic future: he leaves the Faculty of Catholic Theology, but remains Professor of Ecumenical Theology with virtually all academic rights. His “Institute for Ecumenical Research” is outsourced from the faculty and reports direct to the university president as an independent institution.
The book “Christianity and the World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism” marks the beginning of the Global Ethic Project. In the book, Hans Küng comprehensively deals with Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism for the first time (a volume on Chinese religions was to follow in 1999). Küng’s thesis “No Peace Among Nations Without Peace Between Religions,” which was to become the slogan of the Global Ethic Project, can be found in the epilogue of this book.
The further life story of Hans Küng is inseparable
from the history of the Global Ethic Foundation.