Hans Urs von Balthasar

Hans Urs von Balthasar ( born August 12, 1905 in Lucerne, † June 26, 1988 in Basel) was a Swiss Roman Catholic priest, theologian and came from an old patrician family Lucerne. Though never active in the scientific operation of a university, he is considered one of the major Catholic theological writers of the 20th century. Balthasar also one of the preparers of the Second Vatican Council, to which he was not invited " the only one of the large central European theologians " as a consultant. Later he was appointed to the council established under the International Theological Commission, which is associated with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

His theology was shaped by the encounters with Jesuit philosophers and theologians such as Erich Przywara, Jean Henri de Lubac Daniélou and he also rendered into German. He was influenced by the philosopher Gustav Siewerth and Ferdinand Ulrich and through his long association with the mystic Adrienne von Speyr. Through his publications, he opened up the patristic heritage for the new theology and the Christian faith. Due to its merits intended Pope John Paul II to appoint him a cardinal with the title of diakonia San Nicola in Carcere, but he died two days before admission to the College of Cardinals. He was buried at the Hofkirche in Luzern without any time limit.


Hans Urs von Balthasar attended the Jesuit school Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, studied from 1923 in Zurich, Berlin and Vienna, German literature and philosophy. In 1928 he received his doctorate in Zurich with history of eschatological problem in modern German literature. On 31 October 1929 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus Feldkirch. After the novitiate, he was from 1931 to 1932 in Pullach active. From 1932 to 1936 he studied in Lyon - Fourvière theology. He completed his Tertiate in Pullach to his priestly ordination in Munich in 1936. From 1937 to 1939 he was editor of the religious magazine voices of the time. In 1950 he left the Jesuit order again. Balthasar was from 1940 in Basel students and academic counselors.

Along with Adrienne von Speyr he founded on 8 December 1944, the Secular Institute of the Community of St. John. In Zurich and Basel, he then worked as a writer and director of the John Verlag. A conflict with the Jesuits was Balthasar appear in the 1950s as a theological outsider. At times he was even priests without canonical mapping.

Balthasar presented an extensive theological work. As one of the most educated theological writers of the 20th century, Balthasar held but far from a professorship. A reputation as a professor of fundamental theology at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen as a successor of Heinrich Fries he declined from 1960, the Chair then took over instead Hans Küng. As the founder of secular institutes he was compared to his theological acceptance unknown. 1956 Balthasar was awarded the Central Swiss Culture Award; In 1971 he received the Romano Guardini Prize.


The literary work of Balthasar has the following scope: some 90 separate books, 100 translations, 550 articles, 15 Selection editions of classical authors. For this, he was an editor of 13 book series.

For a full view provides the Johannes Publisher: works by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar

A selection of earlier works:

  • Apocalypse of the German soul. 3 volumes. Pustet, Salzburg / Leipzig 1937-39
  • The heart of the world. Ark, Zurich 1945
  • Therese of Lisieux. History of a program. Hegner, Cologne 1950
  • Karl Barth. Presentation and interpretation of his theology. Hegner, Cologne 1951
  • Reinhold Schneider. His career and his work. Hegner, Cologne 1953
  • Bernanos. Hegner, Cologne 1954
  • Lonely dialogue. Martin Buber and Christianity. Hegner, Cologne 1958; John, Einsiedeln 2 A. 1993, ISBN 3-89411-314-6

His great theological trilogy consists of:

  • Glory. A theological aesthetics. 3 volumes. John, Einsiedeln 1961-69
  • Theo drama. 4 volumes. John, Einsiedeln 1971-83
  • Theo logic. 3 volumes. John, Einsiedeln 1985-87
  • Epilogue. John, Einsiedeln 1987

A selection of other works:

  • Sketches to theology. 5 volumes. John, Einsiedeln 1960-86
  • First look at Adrienne von Speyr. John, Einsiedeln 1968

Magazine ' communion '

In 1972, von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger ( 2005-2013 Pope Benedict XVI. ), Karl Lehmann, Franz Greiner, Otto B. Roegele, Albert Gorres and John Doe, the ' International Catholic journal Communio '. It appears (as of 2012) in 17 languages ​​and is considered one of the most important Catholic theological journals.


2005 his 100th birthday was commemorated.

There are the ' Hans Urs von Balthasar Foundation ', a Swiss foundation. Foundation's mission is " the conservation and dissemination of philosophical, theological, and literary work, Hans Urs von Balthasar, including through

  • Support of all the activities - in collaboration with the Community of St. John - the collection, organization, evaluation, and - if feasible - are available to the public of his estate,
  • Promotion of literature by and about Hans Urs von Balthasar; Study grants, publication posts.
  • Establishment of an international correspondents and friends, also in ecumenical matters. "