VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 26, 2005 ( Benedict XVI had a private conversation with dissident Swiss theologian Hans Küng on subjects the latter has been researching in recent times.

The private meeting took place Saturday in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls revealed details of the conversation this afternoon.

"The meeting unfolded in a friendly atmosphere," stated the Vatican spokesman's communiqué.
"Both agreed that it made no sense, in the framework of the meeting, to enter into a dispute on the persistent doctrinal differences between Hans Küng and the magisterium of the Catholic Church."

According to Navarro Valls, the meeting centered on two topics: the foundation of a "world ethic," and the dialogue of the reason of the natural sciences with the reason of the Christian faith.

Küng, 77, was suspended in 1979 from teaching theology in Catholic faculties by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became its prefect.

Both theologians have known each other since 1957, when Joseph Ratzinger published a review of Küng's doctoral thesis. As he explains in his autobiography, the future Benedict XVI did not share much of Küng's thesis, but they enjoyed a good personal relationship.

'66 appointment

At the request and insistence of Küng, Father Ratzinger was appointed professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Tuebingen in 1966, where Küng taught.

According to the communiqué on the meeting, written in German, "Professor Küng emphasized that his project of a 'world ethic' is far from being an abstract intellectual construct; but that it manifests the values on which the great religions of the world converge, despite all the differences, and which can be perceived as valid criteria -- given their convincing reasonable character -- by secular reason.

"The Pope appreciated professor Küng'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.

"He underlined that the commitment for renewed awareness of the fundamental values of human life is also an important objective of his pontificate."

Cardinal Ratzinger demonstrated that he was very familiar with Küng's proposal for a world ethic in the debate he had with philosopher Jürgen Habermas on Jan. 19, 2004, by initiative of the Catholic Academy of Bavaria in Munich.


In his meeting with his old friend, the Pope also reaffirmed "his agreement with Professor Küng's intention to revive the dialogue between faith and the natural sciences and to assert, in relation with scientific thought, the sensibleness and the necessity of the question on God."

"For his part," the Vatican note added, "Professor Küng applauded the Pope's efforts to foster the dialogue of religions and also the meeting with different social groups of the modern world."