History of the Department

Founding: The “Department of Pastoral Theology”

Caused by the then director of the Faculty of Theology of Vienna, the Benedictine abbot Franz Stephan Rautenstrauch, and his "Draft of a better establishment of theological schools", pastoral theology is added to the subject canon of theology in 1774. As a result, in the academic year 1775/76, pastoral theological lectures were held at the faculty and the year 1777 - Franz Giftschütz was appointed the first professor of the subject of pastoral theology (full professor from 1777/78 to 1788) - is officially known as the "year of birth" of pastoral theology. The chair at the Faculty of Catholic Theology in Vienna is the world's oldest chair for pastoral theology.

For a long time the discipline and its representatives - among them most notably Anselm Ricker (1872-1895), Heinrich Swoboda (1895/99- †1923) and Michael Pfliegler (1946-1961) - remained committed to the Rautenstrauchian concept of pastoral theology. Accordingly, the "pastor" as the sole subject of pastoral care in his responsibility for the church is at the center of the considerations; the primary concern of such a pastoral theology is the excellent - theoretical as well as practical - education of the priestly pastor.

In the second half of the twentieth century, an increased interest in anthropological, psychological, and sociological realities, as well as in a "broadening" and theological foundation of the discipline arises. This was significantly influenced by Rahner's understanding of pastoral theology as a science that reflects and interprets the current situation of the Church theologically and, against this background, considers the ever-present realisation of the Church. In this recent past, above all, "Church theologian" Ferdinand Klostermann (1962-1977), Josef Müller (1977/78 - 1982) and the strongly religious sociology-oriented Paul-Michael Zulehner (1984-2009), with their specific approaches helped shape and develop the field.

Separation: The “Department of Pastoral Theology and Kerygmatics” and the “Department of Religious Education and Catechetics”

Until the 1970s, catechetics was assigned to the Chair of Pastoral Theology. Noteworthy during this time was Leopold Krebs, who, due to his professional background as a religious education teacher, committed himself to catechetics as Ordinariate of Pastoral Theology (1923-1939/1946). Michael Pfliegler, too - especially during his lecturing career - strove to explore pastoral care, preaching and catechesis more closely and to reflect on relevant psychological and social conditions.

It was Ferdinand Klostermann who, in continuation of Swoboda's concern, forced the division of pastoral theology into various chairs of high quality and it came to the establishment of an independent "Department of Religious Education and Kerygmatics" (1967; from 1977 onwards “Department of Religious Education and Catechetics "and "Department of Pastoral Theology and Kerygmatics "). The newly founded department is charged with teaching religious education, catechetics as an extracurricular introduction and guidance of the faith, as well as subject didactics as a field of scientific research, which has become established as a scientific discipline in recent decades. The first chair holder was Bruno Dreher (1968 - †1971). This first phase of Viennese religious education is strongly influenced by Wolfgang Langer (1979-2000), who - once again taking up the theology of Karl Rahner - initiates an anthropological turn in religious education.

Reunification: The “Department of Practical Theology”

On 1 January 2007, a new phase of "Practical Theology" begins at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of the University of Vienna. Under the direction of Regina Polak and Martin Jäggle, the Department of Practical Theology was established by merging the former Departments of Pastoral Theology and Kerygmatics, as well as Religious Education and Catechetics. This union of the two departments makes it possible (again) - while maintaining the specifics of the two disciplines - to practice "practical theology" in a common space for discussion.

Since March 2010, Johann Pock has been Professor of Pastoral Theology and Kerygmatics with a focus on parish and sacramental ministry and homiletics. In September 2015, Andrea Lehner-Hartmann became professor of religious education and catechetics with a focus on subjective theories in subject didactics, religious learning and religious education in a pluralistic society, as well as gender in (religious) educational processes. Since October 2013, Regina Polak has been holding the newly established Associate Professorship for Practical Theology and Religious Studies with a focus on Religion and Interreligious Dialogue in the context of migration and value research. Christian Friesl has been an Associate Professor since 2001 with a focus on value research/European value study.

As a red thread across the history of the Department of Pastoral Theology or Practical Theology in Vienna, the self-commitment of the subject calls attention: on the one hand to the Kairos - towards the historical situation as a space for the self-communication of God -, on the other hand towards the Gospel as well as the theological and ecclesiastical tradition.

You will find more detailed information on the image, priorities and goals in research and teaching in the mission statement of the department.