Liberal Catholic theologian says pope is center of `personality cult'

Hans Kung, a liberal Swiss Roman Catholic who was stripped by the Vatican of his right to teach theology, said Pope John Paul II's visit reflected a "personality cult" in the church.

The visit was a slickly orchestrated event "steered by the hierarchy and dominated by Rome-oriented charismatic groups" from throughout Europe, Kung told The Associated Press, in a phone interview from his home in Tubingen, Germany.

"That was no representative meeting of Swiss Catholic young people as I know them," said Kung after a mostly youthful crowd of 70,000 joined the pope Sunday at his open-air Mass.

The service and youth meeting the night before allowed for no questioning of Vatican policies ranging from celibacy to the secondary role for women in the church, Kung said.

On the pope's last visit to Switzerland 20 years ago, young people could ask critical questions, but this time they were only permitted to cheer, read greetings and devotedly kiss his hands, Kung said.

Such a "triumphalist personality cult" surrounding the pontiff is objectionable, Kung said.

"This pope, whose foreign policy of peace and justice in the world I fully support, still has no answers for the most urgent questions of internal church policies," Kung said.