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Hugo Rahner, was a German Jesuit, Theologian, * 3. 5. 1900 in Pfullendorf (Baden), † 21.12. 1968 in Munich. He was Dean and President of Innsbruck University and the elder brother of Karl Rahner.


Early life

He entered the Jesuit order in 1919 and was sent to Valkenburg, Holland for theological and philosophical studies. Ordained priest in 1929, he completed his doctorate in theology in 1931, after which he worked on a doctorate in philosophy. Since 1937, he taught at the theological faculty in Innsbruck (Austria), specializing in patrology and history of Catholic dogma. The Nazis forced his resignation and exile from 1940-1945.

Church and State

After the war, he was named Dean and later President of the University of Innsbruck. His work focused on the relation between Church and State in the early years of Christianity. [1] In numerous documentations, Rahner tried to revive the enthusiasm of the early Christians for the Church. He mentions Tertullian: GREAT is the emperor, because he is smaller than the heavens“, and Ambrose of Milan, "It is not imperial, to deny freedom of speech, it is not priestly, to withhold one's opinion". All people are called into the Church. The Church is called Kyriake, which means "of the lord," because Christ, the lord is ruler. She has to teach in all centuries to all states, what Christ the lord and ruler has wonderfully decreed to the people. [2]


Hugo Rahner's great achievement was his rediscovery, in the Fathers, of the indivisibility of Mary and the Church. Pope Benedict XVI

Rahner's Mariology following Ambrose of Milan , sees Mary in her role within the Church. His interpretation, based solely on the early writers,[3] greatly influenced Vatican II [4] and [5], who, quoting Ambrose, declared Mary the "Mother of the Church", a view continued by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who specifically gives credit to Rahner on this point.

On first sight, Benedict XVI argues, it may seem accidental, that the Council moved mariology into ecclesiology. This relation helps to understand what "Church" really is. but, so Benedict XVI, Hugo Rahner showed that Mariology was originally ecclesiology. The Church is like Mary.[6 ]

The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly she learnes, that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary on the other hand is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She is carrying the mystery of the Church. [6 ]

Pope Benedict XVI lamented that this unity of Church and Mary, shown by Rahner, was overshadowed in later centuries, which overburdened Mary with privileges and removed her into a far away distance. Both mariology and ecclesiology suffered under this. A Marian view of the Church and an ecclesiological view of Mary in salvation history lead directly to Christ. It brings to light what is meant by holiness and by God being human. [6 ] Only one work on mariology, Our Lady and the Church,[7] is translated into English. It received great praise not only from Pope Benedict XVI but also from American Cardinal Avery Dulles:

  • "With engaging clarity, this pioneering study sets forth the vast range of biblical metaphors the Fathers applied to Mary and the Church: ark of the covenant, valiant woman, treasure-laden ship. This rich theology of poetry and image has much to say to our more prosaic age."

—Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.

Ignatius of Loyola

Hugo Rahner together with Otto Karrer contributed with several works to a revised view of the historical Ignatius of Loyola. He described him as theologian, [8]his letters to women [9] and his various stages of development, applying a historically critical methods to existing documents rather than hagiography. In this sense he is considered as a modern turning point in research on Ignatius.

Selected Writings

  • Our Lady and the Church
  • Eine Theologie der Verkündigung, Freiburg 1939;
  • Abendländische Kirchenfreiheit, Einsiedeln/Köln 1943;
  • Mater Ecclesia - Lobpreis der Kirche aus dem ersten Jahrtausend, Einsiedeln/Köln 1944;
  • Mariens Himmelfahrt und das Priestertum, Innsbruck 1951;
  • Der spielende Mensch, Einsiedeln 1952;
  • Die Kirche - Gottes Kraft in menschlicher Schwäche, Freiburg 1956;
  • Ignatius von Loyola. Geistliche Briefe, Einsiedeln/Köln 1956;
  • Ignatius von Loyola. Briefwechsel mit Frauen, Freiburg 1956;
  • Griechische Mythen in christlicher Deutung, Zürich 1957/Basel 1984;
  • Sinn der Geschichte - Persönlichkeit und Geschichte, Kevelaer 1959;
  • Himmelfahrt der Kirche, Freiburg 1961;
  • Kirche und Staat im frühen Christentum, München 1951;
  • Maria und die Kirche. Zehn Kapitel über das geistliche Leben, Innsbruck 19512;
  • Symbole der Kirche, Salzburg 1954;
  • Abendland, Freiburg 1966.

Literature on Hugo Rahner

  • Jean Daniélou und Herbert Vorgrimler: Sentire Ecclesiam - Das Bewußtsein von der Kirche als gestaltende Kraft der Frömmigkeit. Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag von H. Rahner, Freiburg-Basel-Wien 1961 (inkl. Verzeichnis der Werke)
  • Johannes Holdt: Hugo Rahner: sein geschichts- und symboltheologisches Denken, Paderborn 1997, ISBN 3-506-73956-5
  • Abraham Peter Kustermann und Karl Heinz Neufeld (Hrsg.): Gemeinsame Arbeit im brüderlicher Liebe - Hugo und Karl Rahner. Dokumente und Würdigung ihrer Weggemeinschaft, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-926297-48-4
  • Karl Heinz Neufeld: Die Brüder Rahner: eine Biographie. Freiburg i. Br.; Basel; Wien: Herder 1994, ISBN 3-451-23466-1


  1. ^ (»Abendländische Kirchenfreiheit«, Einsiedeln/Köln 1943,
  2. ^ Kirche und Staat im frühen Christentum«, München 1961, p.11)
  3. ^ Mater Ecclesia - Lobpreis der Kirche aus dem ersten Jahrtausend, Einsiedeln/Köln 1944;
  4. ^ Lumen Gentium Chapter eight,
  5. ^ Pope Paul VI
  6. ^ a b c Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger: Weggemeinschaft des Glaubens. Kirche als Communio. Festgabe zum 75. Geburtstag, hg. vom Schülerkreis, Augsburg 2002)
  7. ^ Hugo Rahner, Our Lady and the Church (Bethesda: Zaccheus Press, 2005).
  8. ^ Ignatius von Loyola. Geistliche Briefe, Einsiedeln/Köln 1956;
  9. ^ Ignatius von Loyola. Briefwechsel mit Frauen, Freiburg 1956;


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