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Responding to “Hans Küng and the Global Ethic”

May 19, 2021

On April 6, 2021, the celebrated Catholic priest and theologian Dr. Hans Küng passed away. Küng was well known for drafting the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic, a landmark document that aimed to chart a common ethic shared by all religious traditions.

In response to his passing, the  Berkley Center at Georgetown University invited scholars, practitioners, and other experts to celebrate the legacy of Hans Küng and reflect on the impact of his global ethic, as well as the contributions he made to interreligious dialogue and Catholic theology.

Parliament stakeholders like Fr. Pawlikowski, Kehkashan Basu and Myriam Renaud responded to this invitation, read their responses below.

The Global Ethic: Hans Küng’s Lasting Gift to the World

In the late 1980s, a question preoccupied Hans Küng: Can there be peace in the world without peace between the religions? Küng decided the answer was no—how then to end persistent conflict between the religions? Moral codes lay at the core of every religious tradition, and though too often transgressed, these codes aimed to secure justice, fairness, and freedom from violence. Küng decided that if these shared moral commitments could be identified, they would offer a foundation for cooperation, serving as common ground for the religious traditions to work together peacefully on issues of mutual concern.

The Church and Beyond: Hans Küng and Interreligious Relations

The global ethic will undoubtedly continue to be refined in light of criticisms that it is too Western and that it lacks elements of feminist, liberationist, and postcolonial perspectives. But the need for such an ethic remains a lasting legacy of Hans Küng’s contribution to contemporary religious understanding.

Hans Küng and a Global Ethic: A Route to Building Back Better

Dr. Küng’s vision is timeless and intergenerational, and although he is not present in person, his thoughts continue to provide us with the fuel for creating a new world order, one that is based on a global ethic of humanity that envelops not just human beings but also nature. I wasn’t born when Dr. Küng drafted the original version of the global ethic declaration, but I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the seventh Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2018 in Toronto, where the fifth directive on ecological issues was added to the declaration, calling for a “commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the Earth.”