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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2020/21 Jun.-Prof. Dr. Bernhard Spielberg …

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Bernhard Spielberg

University of Freiburg
Catholic Theology - Pastoral Theology/ Practical Theology
Junior Fellow
January 2015 - August 2018



Bernhard Spielberg was born in the Franconian city of Würzburg in Bavaria/Germany in 1976. After studies of Catholic Theology at the University of Würzburg he started his academic career there as assistant to Prof. Dr. Erich Garhammer in 2001. His doctoral thesis “Kann Kirche noch Gemeinde sein? Praxis, Probleme und Perspektiven der Kirche vor Ort” (“Can church still be community? Practice, problems and perspectives of the local church“) was published in 2008. In his habilitation project, finished in 2014, he examined the inspiring potential of American pragmatism (cf. William James, C.S. Pierce) for practical theology and identified hot spots of pastoral development. In 2014 he received the “venia legendi” for pastoral theology and homiletics and transferred to the University of Freiburg as Juniorprofessor. From 2015 he is one of the FRIAS Junior Fellows.

Bernhard Spielberg’s research foci are

a) social transformations in today’s society,

b) transformations of religion around the globe and

c) organizational transformations of the Catholic Church.

Among other duties he is dedicated to consulting processes of pastoraldevelopment, teaching preaching and the formation of (lay and ordained) pastors. Besides his scientific interest Bernhard Spielberg has a passion for movies, guitars, chocolate and the French culture & cuisine. He is married and father of three.


FRIAS Research Project

Global Transformations of Catholicism:  Strategies of Plurality – Role Models – Questions of God

It is in these decades that it changes much more than ever before in its two thousand year-long history: the Catholic Church. From the beginning of the 20th century its way lead – in thinking and in practice – from a euro-centric church towards a polycentric world-church. This was fostered by its rapidly growing number of members on the one hand and on the other hand by these members’ completely new distribution across the world. In the years between 1960 and 2013 the number of members grew from 600 million to 1.2 billion. Thirty-nine percent of them live in Latin America, 24 percent in Europe, 16 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 11 percent in Asia and scarcely one percent in Australia and Oceania. In the middle of the 21st century the famous theologian Karl Rahner interpreted this development as a historic break with only one example in church history: the transition from Jewish Christianity to Hellenistic Christianity in the first and second century – with its fundamental re-orientation.

The project “Global Transformations of Catholicism” analyzes the changes the new religious world map means for the thinking and the practice of the organization itself. Research will be conducted with a focus on three significant phenomena:

A first sub-project analyzes strategies of plurality in church communities in the US. It is dedicated to find out how they are dealing with cultural heterogeneity in a way that brings together fruitfully different traditions and catholic identities.

A second sub-project is interested in the changing roles of pastors, especially in the countries of Central Africa: What are the motivations? How do training concepts change? What does the pastoral practice look like?

A third sub-project asks for the global implications of the theologies that especially grew in the poly-religious context of India in the past decades. What is their potential for the reflection on God in the light of a fading occidental domination of philosophical issues and in view of the capacity for violence of religion – far beyond the Catholic Church and even Christianity


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