History of the Department of Theology Print

Historical Premises

The Department of Theology of the Ukrainian Catholic University inherited and continues the activity of the Greek-Catholic Theological Academy founded in 1928-1929 in Lviv by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytskyi and headed by its first Rector Rev. Josyf Slipyj

Theological education in various historic periods had its own forms. During the first centuries of Christianity its expression could be observed in the epistles of authoritative Christians, sermons, especially those of catechetic kind, comments on the books of Bible, etc. During the 2-nd and 3-rd centuries well-known theological schools (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea Palestinae, Edessa) were established, and in the Middle Ages universities appeared, where theology was studied as a discipline. In response to a challenge from protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, the first Ukrainian theological educational institutions emerged, in particular in Ostrog and Lviv. They had a significant impact on religious and cultural revival of Ukraine in late 16th century. After the Union of Brest, under the circumstances of division and inter-confessional confrontation, there appeared different conditions for the development of education and theology in both branches of the Kyivan Church. For the Orthodox Church, the period of the 17th century appeared to be enormously fruitful, especially due to Petro Mohyla’s reforms and the activity of his creation – Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Theological synthesis between East and West, general openness to “artes liberales”, readiness to introduce theology into culture, and culture into theology, contributed to the fact that the Academy turned into an intellectual center of the whole eastern Christianity.

Attempts of the Uniate Church to develop its own scholarship in this period were not successful, and only some representatives of the clergy could study in catholic universities and papal collegiums. The circumstances of post-tridentine uniformism and a constant lack of national intellectual potencies produced a tradition of relying on foreign educational and scholarly institutions, foreign potencies and minds, a tradition which got firmly rooted in the Church for a long time and led to its Latinization and cultural polonization.

The Austrian Period

Positive changes in the Ukrainian theological education occurred only in the late 18th century. In 1772, after the first partition of Rzeczpospolita [Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania], the territory of western Ukrainian lands – Galicia and Bukovyna – was annexed to the Austrian Empire. Reforms, held in the empire at the end of the 18th century, especially in the sphere of education, made it possible for the Greek-Catholic Church to develop its own scholarship. To improve the level of education for the uniate clergy, in 1774, with the support of the Austrian authorities, Royal Greek-Catholic Seminary was founded in Vienna (Regium generale Seminarium Graeco-Catholicum Viennae ad Sanctam Barbaram), based on St Barbara church. Сommonly first, and later even officially, a shortened version – Barbareum – came into use. In 1783 this Seminary was moved to Lviv, where the General Spiritual Seminary was founded. Here the students of Barbareum, who were originally from Galicia, could continue their studies. For Galicia and the Ukrainian people, scattered beyond its borders, it became a temple of theological studies and a center of revival. The work in the Spiritual Academy was concentrated on the deepening of theological studies, rituals, church chanting and spiritual life. A decade of Barbareum existence had an enormous significance for the Greek-Catholic Church since among the graduates of this Seminary there were 6 bishops, 16 choristers, 10 professors of universities or eparchial seminaries, 8 rectors of seminaries and 8 writers.

In 1784 a university with four faculties, in including the Faculty of Theology was founded in Lviv. For a century and a half seminarians were studying at the faculties of Philosophy and Theology in Lviv University, although even in this institution they did not have a chance to revive and cherish the traditions of Kyivan Christianity.

In the 20th century, the organization of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church theological education underwent tangible changes. In 1905 Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky made his first attempt to create in Lviv a high theological school with a right to award doctorate degree. The WWI atrocities and the unfavorable political circumstances obstructed the implementation of this idea. In 1913 the emperor issued a decree about the foundation of the Ukrainian University in Lviv as of September 1, 1913. Due to the war, foundation of the university was postponed. What conduced the activization of building up higher education in Galicia were the actions of Polish authorities. Thus in 1918, as part of the general policy of polonization in Lviv University, it happened that Ukrainian departments were closed, many Ukrainian professors were fired, the pressure of ecclesiastic Latinization increased. Poles took a rather hostile position regarding the creation of a Ukrainian University in Lviv. A secret Ukrainian university that became a temporary harbor for Ukrainian professors and students was liquidated by force in 1925.  In this context Metropolitan Sheptytsky initiated creation of a higher theological school.

Theological Academy

In view of a deep request for creation of a Ukrainian university and by using his rights of a Metropolitan, Andrey Sheptytsky, on February 23, 1928, approved the regulations of Theological Academy and founded the Ukrainian Theological Academy, with a perspective of its further reorganization into the Ukrainian Catholic University. On this occasion, the Metropolitan published a charter in which he mentioned that he is establishing a Theological Academy as the most secure foundation of the spiritual revival of Ukrainian People and preparation of the Ukrainian Church for the implementation of its future mission in the Christ’s Vineyard in the Ukrainian Land and among the nations of Eastern Europe, striving for the Truth of God. Theological Academy is the successor of traditions of the Spiritual Seminary founded in Vienna in 1774. Rev. Dr Josyf Slipyj was appointed by Metropolitan Andrey to be the organizer and the rector of the Academy.

The solemn opening of the Academy took place on October 6, 1929. During the ceremony, Metropolitan Andrey noted that the necessity to found a high theological school naturally results from Ukraine’s mission in the East which was supposed to contribute to converging the Churches of the East and of the West. The Metropolitan paid attention to the fact that dogmatic, rite-related, legal and historical aspects of the Ukrainian Church must be properly studied. By means of revealing historic truth based on comprehensive scholarship, Metropolitan Andrey aspired to win a decent place for the Ukrainian Catholic Church within the Ecumenical Church.

The newly appointed rector Rev. Dr Josyf Slipyj delivered a speech at the opening ceremony. He emphasized that the Theological Academy was a high national treasure because it opened the highest truths to the nation, educated its leaders, providee it with sobriety and spiritual equilibrium, breadth of thought, and taught how to preserve oneself with dignity and honor. The Academy was meant to become people’s educator. The primary task of the Academy was to raise the level of scholarship among the clergy.

Since the beginning of the Academy existence was very difficult due to a material difficulty and lack of professors, at first only a Department of Theology was founded. As the Theological Academy grew and the number of professors increased, in 1932 Metropolitan Andrey founded a separate Department of Philosophy. After a couple of years, the Theological Academy overcame all difficulties and obstacles, consolidated and deepened its own organization and gathered the best theological and secular academic resources, managed to create a genuine scholarship atmosphere and raise academic interest among the members of professors’ collegium and students. After the first ten years of its existence, the Academy considerably developed and grew: new faculties and departments were opened, the academic faculty grew to 40 people, a publishing house was established, a library was formed. One could observe publications of the Theological Scholarly Society at the Theological Academy: “Bohosloviya”, “Nyva”, “Dzvony”, “Meta”. Having united around itself the leading circles of the Western Ukrainian intelligentsia, the Academy thus became a center of Ukrainian scholarship and academic life. Within the territory of the Polish state at that time it was the only Ukrainian institution of higher education. From the very beginning of its foundation, the Academy was trying to introduce eastern perspectives, develop enculturated theology, although the framework for such initiatives within the Catholic Church before Vatican II was quite scanty. In 1939 the Academy established a Department of Law and was turned into the Ukrainian Catholic University.

The Period of Occupation

After the soviet troops entered Galicia in September 1939, the Academy was closed and its students were repressed. The soviet authorities prohibited printing books or articles related to theological issues. As a result of German bombing on September 15, 1939, the academic church of Holy Spirit and the library were destroyed.
During the German occupation the situation did not improve that much. The Academy, although with little academic faculty left, resumed its work. In September 1941, Theological Academy started its academic year. The Theological Scholarly Society was also brought back to life.  The Academy was headed again by rector Josyf Slipyj, Rev. Dr Yaroslav Levytsky was appointed the Dean of the Theological department, while Rev. Dr Vasyl Laba was appointed the vice-Dean. In 1942, the Roman Apostolic See even granted the Academy permission to create a department of postgraduate studies.  Out of 500 students who studied between 1941 and 1944 only 60 received their diplomas.

In 1944 the soviets returned to Lviv. In spring 1945 the Theological Academy was completely closed. The bulk of its graduates and professors – including its long-serving rector Josyf Slipyj who after the death of Metropolitan Andrey became the head of UGGC – found themselves in Syberian GULAG. Many professors and graduates of the Ukrainian Theological Academy emigrated. The Church, however, survived in the catacombs: bishops and priests carried out their activity secretly, some monasteries remained active, seminarians continued to get their education in the underground. Usually, former professors and graduates of the Academy were the ones who served as teachers and spiritual leaders under those circumstances.


The Period of Emigration

To resolve a complicated situation with theological education for Greek-Catholics who found themselves in the emigration, they managed to organize Ukrainian Catholic Spiritual Seminary in Germany (Hirschberg, Bavaria). From the very beginning the Seminary was headed by Rev. Mitrat Vasyl Laba, and then he passed the rectorate on to Rev. Olexander Malynovskyj.  On April 24, 1948, the Seminary moved from Germany to Holland (Culemborg). It was liquidated in 1950.

In 1963, after the 18 years of imprisonment and concentration camps, Josyf Slipyj, the head of UGCC, came to Rome. Right upon arrival to Rome, he undertook the noble cause of rebuilding the Church and the university. During the Ecumenic Council, Josyf Slipyj presented an Act of raising Kyivan-Galician Metropoly, with its center in Lviv, to the dignity of Patriarchy, and on December 1963 he issued a charter about foundation of the Ukrainian Catholic University (named after St Clemens, the pope of Rome) in Rome.  By these two acts Metropolitan Slipyj intended to bring independence to the Ukrainian Catholic Church and to found in the capital of the Christian world an academic scholarly institution led by eastern Christians in the spirit of Kyivan Christianity. The task of the University was to cognize the Christian worldview of the Ukrainian people and the worldview of the whole East to which they belonged, to gather and record the knowledge in the books. His Beatitude Josyf could perfectly see the gaps in the spiritual culture of his times and clearly understood that those could be mended only by the native clergy and laity educated in their own Christian school and in their own spirit. This school was meant to continue the ideas cherished by the Theological Academy in Lviv. The construction of the University began in 1964 and was finished mainly in 1966. On October 2, 1966, the University was sanctified. During this period, apart from ecclesiastic books and books of prayers, over one hundred valuable books were published. Such periodicals as “Bohosloviya”, “Nyva”, “Dzvony” continued to be published again.

Patriarch Slipyj organized also the affiliates of UCU (in Buenos Aires, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, London) for the needs of the Ukrainian Church and people, he was aiming to preserve both the rite and the identity feeling.

After some time, the Patriarch founded St Sophia College. In those days Josyf Slipyj demonstrated a firm belief that Ukraine would revive and that one should better be prepared to that forthcoming reality. UCU students and the students of St Sophia College, under the spiritual guidance of Josyf Slipyj, were concerned with the fact that the Church requires its own theology, its own approach to theologizing, requires its own scholarly and educational institution. Already in 1970’s -1980’s, the Ukrainian seminarians who studied in Rome were thinking over the perspective of creating a Ukrainian Catholic Faculty of Theology, developing the relevant academic programs in accord with the needs of our Church.


In 1992, by the blessing of archbishop Myroslav Ivan Cardinal Lubachvskyj, a special commission for the restoration of the Theological Academy was created. In 1994 Lviv Synod of Bishops voted for the restoration of Lviv Theological Academy. In September, the same year the Academy was officially opened. In 1994 the activity of the above-mentioned Academy was resumed under the name “Lviv Theological Academy” (LTA).

After the Academy was established and opened in 1994, its management started working on its accreditation. Already in 1998 LTA received recognition from the Congregation of Catholic Education. The BA diploma in Theology which was received by the first graduates in 1999 is recognized by all Catholic and many non-Catholic institutions around the world. The first rector of the restored LTA was Rev. Dr Dymyd. In 2000, he was succeeded by Rev. Dr Borys Gudziak who in 2002, by the decision of St Clement’s Foundation, was appointed to the position of the first rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University.

Foundations of the Department of Theology

Founding of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Ukraine, which took place on June 28, 2002, crowned in itself a centenary of efforts and aspirations of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and Ukrainian scholars to create an educational institution that would be growing on the ground of Christian spirituality, culture and worldview and would become a scholarly center of general significance, as well as a place of ecumenic dialogue and understanding in Ukraine.

On February 2004, a Center for Theological Studies was created at UCU. Rev. Dr Sviatoslav Shevchuk headed the center. On March 13, 2006, the Department of Theology at UCU was created, based on this center.  Rev. Dr Sviatoslav Shevchuk was working as associate professor of the Department of Theology from October 1, 2007 till July 1, 2009. Mykhailo Petrovych was the first chairman of the Department (from April 1, 2006 till February 1, 2009). Between February 2, 2009 and July 31, 2009 Rev. Taras Barshchevskyj was the acting chairman of the Department of Theology. Rev. Dr Ihor Boiko was the head of the Department between October 5, 2009 and July 31, 2010. From January 18, 2011 Viktor Zhukovskyj, Candidate in Philosophy (=PhD), was the head of the Department of Theology, and from December 2011 – Viktor Yelenskyj, Doctor of Philosophy. From April 23, 2014 Viktor Zhukovskyj became the acting chairman of the Department, and since May 8, 2015 he has been chairing the Department of Theology up till now.