As much as christianism has enjoyed a long tradition of academic expertise in theology, canon law but also history, philosophy and later religious socio-anthropology at the UCLouvain, from the late XIXth Century onwards, the university also achieved some reknown for the study of other religions and cultures.
The research carried out in divinity, attest since 1432 of a lasting reputation in scientific and critical approaches of the christian and catholic scholarly traditions.
Very early on, the theology faculty also cast an interest for alternative religious traditions and included non theological disciplines. This progressive transformation finally led in 2007 to the creation of an interfaculty Master of Arts in Religious Studies as well as to the creation of the RSCS Institute in 2009.
Research in Canon Law (since 1425) and then a specific section of Canon Law which until 1996 issued the licentia in Canon Law, underwent a similar process. Research in Canon Law were merged with those of the theology faculty until 2007, when they were expanded by the setting up of a Chair in Law of religions, besides Canon Law.
The Orientalist Institute (whose appellation dates back to 1936, as the crowning jewel emerging from a gradual trend since the XVIth and XIXth Centuries inside the University of Leuven) or also the Centre for the History of Religions (founded by Prof. Julien Ries, made cardinal by Pope Benedict XVIth) count among the pioneering institutions for the study of Islam, Buddhism and antique religions.
More recently still in the 1980’s, on the initiative of professors Jean Remy and Liliane Voyé, the Religious Social Sciences Group (GSSR) federating numerous disciplines, made it possible to set up a real community of researchers on the religious object.
The relative importance of Islam both from a geopolitical and a sociological viewpoint, was also compounded at the UCLouvain by the foundation of the Cermac (by Prof. Bichara Khader, now prof. Vincent Legrand) and with the creation of the Cismoc (Interdisciplinary Centre for Islam in the Contemporary World - founded by Prof. Felice Dassetto (now prof. Brigitte Marechal). Mention should also be made of the multireligious object of the Centre for the Psychology of religion (founded by Prof. Antoine vergote in 1961, now prof. Vassilis Saroglou) and whose scientific analysis is more specifically cross-religious.
Most of these initiatives sprouted in various parts of the university, have by now become affiliated to the RSCS institute. Purpose of the RSCS is to share the internal expertise accumulated essentially under the aegis of the Christian faith and to stimulate by means of this analytical unfolding, no longer simply the compilation of a comparative encyclopaedical knowledge, but rather, a special attention dedicated to the interweaving of religious rationales as such on the one hand, and inbetween internal hermeneutics as well as external disciplines on the other hand.
The focus on the major traditions is ensured by means of internal and external expertise thanks but not limited to numerous fellows and PhD students.
Main religious traditions are covered by multiple expertise of academics and researchers (with a primary or a secondary affiliation to RSCS) :
Christianism (catholicism, orthodoxy, protestantism)
Régis Burnet, Geert van Oyen, Didier Luciani, André Wénin, Olivier Riaudel, Joseph Famerée, Benoît Bourgine, Louis-Léon Christians, Walter Lesch, Eric Gaziaux, Jean-Pascal Gay, Luc Courtois, Pierre-Jo Laurent, Agnes Guiderdoni, Geneviève Fabry, Ralph Deconinck, Silvia Mostaccio, Guy Zelis, Vincent Dujardin, James Day, Vassilis Saroglou, ...
Didier Luciani, Jean-Claude Haelewyck, Iddo Dickmann, ...
Mehdi Azaiez, Brigitte Marechal, Johannes den Heijer, A.-M. Vuillemenot, Baudouin Dupret, Cécile Bonmariage, Godefroid de Callatay, Vincent Legrand, Abdessamad Belhaj, Michel Younes, Ayang Utriza Yakin, Seraffetin Peckstad, Fabienne Brion, ...
Bouddhism and Hindouism
Philippe Cornu, Christophe Vielle, Jacques Scheuer, ...
René Lebrun, Marco Cavalieri, Jan Tavernier , Charles Doyen
Olivier Servais, Vassilis Saroglou, Louis-Leon Christians, A.-M. Vuillemenot, ...