History & Profile
The "Study Centre St. Nicholas for the Eastern Churches" is affiliated to the "Institute for Ecumenical Studies" (ISO) of the Department of Theology at the University of Fribourg Switzerland. The ISO owes its foundation to the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church during the Second Vatican Council and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. While in many other places ecumenical work looses attention because of the growing significance of interreligious dialogue, in Fribourg there is a growing dynamic: in 2014 a "Study Centre for Faith and Society" was founded at the ISO, dedicated to intra-Protestant ecumenism and contact with movements of church renewal. The new study centre inspired the already strong commitment to studies of the Eastern Churches and theology. Especially orthodox doctoral students are interested and commited in this field. The ever more extensive and diverse work of the ISO led to the idea of making more visible the initiatives with regard to Eastern Church theology and giving an institutional shape to the cooperation with the Eastern Churches. Thus, on St. Nicholas Day, 6 December 2017, the official founding ceremony of the "Study Centre for the Eastern Churches" took place; the constitutive meeting took place on 8 March 2018. Prof. Barbara Hallensleben was elected director.
The Centre St. Nicholas is not an institution for training in Orthodox theology by Orthodox theologians, nor is it a centre of Western experts on Eastern Church tradition. Rather, the Centre offers an academic platform within the framework of Catholic theology so that Orthodox theologians can get to know the Church and theology of the West from their own experience and rethink their ecclesiastical and theological tradition from the perspective of the "diaspora". Thus, they become able to develop theology creatively and represent it as independent actors in dialogue.
The Centre also observes and accompanies Church life in Switzerland, especially the growing presence of the Orthodox Churches. On 22 April 2021, the joint celebration of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the"Charta Oecumenica" together with the AGCK.CH resulted in an event recorded on film: all 12 member churches and 4 churches in guest status presented and commented on the "Charta Oecumenica" with the participation of the two general secretaries of CEC (Conference of European Churches) and CCEE (Council of European Bishops' Conferences) as well as of Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The commitments of the Charta Oecumenica are also guiding principles for the theological work of the Study Centre.
Link to the film (on Youtube) ...