You are here: Home / Research / Research Units / Research Unit of Pastoral and Empirical Theology

Research Unit Pastoral and Empirical Theology

The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies contains five Research Units: Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology and the Study of Religions, Theological and Comparative Ethics, History of Church and Theology, and Pastoral and Empirical Theology. These research units have been entrusted with the teaching of theology and religious studies in the Faculty programmes, with research, with the formation of research personnel, and with social and ecclesiastical services related to each discipline.

Pastoral theology is the critical theological reflection on the pastoral mission of the church. Aligned with the four dimensions of the Christian community, four domains of pastoral theology can be distinguished. The research unit is structured according to these domains:

  • Koinonia: identity and community
  • Kerygma: religious education and communication
  • Leitourgia: liturgy and sacraments
  • Diakonia: pastoral care and Christian social engagement

The research unit opts, in line with the profile of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, for a hermeneutical approach, involving a mutual interpretation of both the Christian theological tradition and the lived faith of people. This hermeneutical approach is the ground for both fundamental and practical theological research in the field of pastoral theology.

A prominent place in the research unit is given to practical theology. This is the critical theological reflection on current practices of faith in the light of the Christian theological tradition in order to formulate a revised practice. Empirical research, featuring quantitative as well as qualitative methods, plays an increasing role in the research unit.

The hermeneutical and practical theological approach, together with the variety of methodologies, gives shape to the interdisciplinarity of pastoral theology and fosters cooperation with other domains of theology, with religious studies and philosophy, and with other (human) sciences, especially with psychology, education, social sciences, and medicine.

Top of page


  • Broesterhuizen Marcel (Em.): pastoral ministry with the deaf
  • Depoortere Frederiek: catechetics; public theology; technology and religion, faith, and science
  • Dillen Annemie: children-family; pastoral care; domestic violence
  • Geldhof Joris: liturgical theology; Eucharist; sacramentality
  • Geybels Hans: Church & media; theology and arts; religious folklore
  • Liégeois Axel: practical theology; care ethics; psychiatry and disability
  • Pollefeyt Didier: post-holocaust Jewish-Christian relations; identity of Catholic schools; religious education
  • Quartier Thomas: liturgical spirituality; monastic studies; empirical research
  • Steen Marc: God and human suffering; practical ecclesiology; eschatology
  • Vandenhoeck Anna: spiritual and pastoral care; practical theology; search for meaning; pastoral supervision
  • Westerink Herman (Visiting Professor): psychoanalysis; mental health; spirituality; mysticism

All members of the Research Unit

List of all members of the RU

Top of page

Research Centres and Groups

Top of page

 Second-Year Doctoral Evaluations

Top of page


Top of page