Pope Benedict has met dissident liberal theologian Hans Kueng in the latest move by the new pontiff to repair ties with prominent critics of the Vatican.
A Vatican statement on Monday said the meeting with Kueng, one of the Catholic Church's most prominent dissenters, was friendly and avoided "the persistent dispute over doctrinal questions" straining his ties to Rome since the late 1970s.
Kueng, a Swiss priest who has known the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger since 1957, said the German-born Pontiff had responded quickly to his request for a talk.
Kueng, 77, was banned from teaching Catholic theology 26 years ago by Benedict's predecessor Pope John Paul after he rejected papal infallibility. Tuebingen University kept him on as a professor of ecumenical theology.
The Vatican said the talks on Saturday at the Pope's summer residence south of Rome focused on ethical and scientific issues, with both agreeing on the need for inter-faith dialogue. "The Pope appreciated Professor Kueng's effort to contribute to a renewed recognition of essential human values through dialogue with religions," the Vatican said.
"For his part, Professor Kueng praised the Pope's efforts to favor dialogue among religions and also his meeting of different social groups from the modern world."
The meeting came a month after Benedict met the head of a breakaway ultra-traditionalist Catholic group in an effort to heal wounds and seek eventual reconciliation.
Both Kueng and Benedict served as theological advisers to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the central event in the Church's process of modernization in the 20th Century. Ironically, Kueng recruited Benedict, at the time a theology professor in Bonn, for a chair in dogmatic theology at Tuebingen in 1966 and defended him strongly against opponents.