Interview to Hans Küng, by Arno Luik.

Mr. Küng, I have a ninety-eight-year-old aunt with a big problem: she is sure she will go to heaven and find her husband and children and acquaintances there, but she wonders what they look like: young, old, ill, healthy?

I understand your aunt’s worry. You do not know what there will be beyond the door of death, personally I cannot and I do not want to imagine what heaven is like. Every person likes imaging, but they have to know they are only their own images. We are living in an age following Copernico and Darwin – and so we cannot imagine heaven the way Michelangelo or the painters of Middle Age or the Baroque used to do. I do not believe in these simple representations of heaven, according which we would sit on a golden chair singing “alleluia”.

Pope Benedetto surely believes that anyhow in an afterlife everyone is sitting in circle. Some time ago he said his predecessor, John Paul II, was leaning from the balcony of the Lord’s house looking at us: then there is a dead person looking down.

This is a surprisingly naïve representation. The Pope, sometimes, uses pre-modern and popular expressions – heritage of his German peasant faith. Obviously he also knows that heaven is not a place beyond the clouds with windows from the sky. Enlightened Christians understand that in the afterlife no body is awaken, but that – as we say in the liturgy – a total transformation in the way of being takes place. I am curious to find out what the afterlife is like.

Mr. Küng, you are certainly disappointed by your life on earth.

Why should I?

You have written more than 60 books, more than 30000 pages and…

I like working very much. In all fairness I think I have produces something that makes Christianity, religion, ethics understandable to modern men.

Despite your fervor…

I have never been and I am not a fanatic, nor a saint, I write for those who are searching for something.

Despite your commitment, since 1989 the two major Churches [in Germany] have lost more than seven million believers, and in the Wednesday’s prayer in Rome there are two and half million people less than some years ago with John Paul II. You have worn out your fingers to write, but that has been useless.

No, I have succeeded! An incomputable number of people writes to me – everyday -, that I have been helpful to them. I have become, unintentionally, a mouthpiece of the loyal opposition to his holiness. A mouthpiece taken into consideration – even by the pope himself. I am present inside and outside the Church. Without me a lot of people would abandon the church, a lot of them tell me: “Until you stand in the Church, I will stand as well”.

However, you have lost your battle. Your antagonist Ratzinger…

He is not my antagonist, and my profession is not to criticize the pope. I am a reformer, not a subversive. And I cannot stand being always called a rebel of the Church or…

Your antagonist has become pope, he goes down in history. You will only be a footnote.

You are quite impudent, you cannot foresee in the future, you…

But that is the way it will be!

This article is available in Italian too