Centres and Institutes

Heythrop College was home to four Research Centres and two Institutes. In many cases the work they undertook was interdisciplinary, involving Heythrop staff from different departments and also visiting research fellows and representatives of faith and community groups.

Some Centres and Institutes relocated following the closure of Heythrop College and where appropriate, new contact details are given below.

Centre for Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue

The Centre for Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue was set up in 2002 and existed to advance scholarship and dialogue through research, teaching, conferences and publications. It was concerned with promoting interdisciplinary – particularly theological, historical, political and pastoral – approaches to the study of Christianity and interreligious dialogue.

In 2009 a programme of study called Faiths Together was set up. An experiment in inter-religious learning, the course brought together some 20 participants from different religious and cultural backgrounds who met with outside speakers, visited people of faith in their homes and in their places of worship, and most importantly spent time listening and learning. Videos taken during this project can be viewed here.

Centre for Eastern Christianity

The Centre for Eastern Christianity aimed to create a significant scholarly opening in Eastern Christian Studies through high-level publications and strategic research for a wider academic and ecclesial audience. It was especially concerned with: the history of relations between the Catholic Church and Eastern Christianity; the wider ecumenical dialogues on ecclesiology and theology; the modern history of the Eastern Catholic churches; the contemporary situation of Eastern Christianity in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

In June 2018,tThe Centre for Eastern Christianity ran a conference on ‘Eastern Christian Tradition in the World Today’. Videos recorded during that conference can be viewed here.

Centre for Philosophy of Religion

The Centre for Philosophy of Religion (CPR) aims to expand the philosophy of religion beyond the confines of a narrow specialist discipline by re-establishing the links between religion as a set of theoretical claims and its moral, psychological and spiritual aspects, and by exploring how it is related to contemporary secular and scientific thought. It approaches philosophy of religion in a way that is sensitive to the beliefs and practices of the great religions, and it encourages interaction with other branches of philosophy, as well as broader interdisciplinary collaboration.

The Centre for Philosophy of Religion will be continuing its work at the University of Roehampton. Please get in touch with Fiona Ellis (Fiona.Ellis@roehampton.ac.uk ) for further details.

Centre for Textual Studies

Heythrop’s Centre for Textual Studies provided an opportunity for academics from all disciplines to develop and showcase the translation and text-critical skills.

During 2013 the Centre ran a conference on "The Signs of the Times: Exploring bible translation and beyond". Videos recorded during the conference can be viewed here.

Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society

Founded in 2003, the Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society (HIRS) sought to provide a place for research, reflection and action by means of projects related to the relationship of religion and society. Particular emphasis was placed on research opportunities and resources for individual researchers and groups, for churches and faith communities, for civil society organizations and for the wider public.

Network for Researchers in Catholic Education This project was set up to support the emerging research community focused on the field of Catholic education and Catholic schools in the UK and in Ireland. For further details regarding the Network for Researchers in Catholic Education, please contact Dr Sean Whittle, Research Associate, CRDCE at sean.whittle@stmarys.ac.uk

Power of the Word The Power of the Word conferences fostered international dialogue between theologians, philosophers, literary scholars and creative writers. They explored the boundaries between poetry, theology and philosophy. Previous conferences have been held in Poland, Italy and more recently Regents Park College, Oxford in 2017.

Refugee Stories: Changing the Narrative During June 2018, the Institute ran a conference entitled "Refugee Stories: Changing the Narrative". It was a unique collaboration between the Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society and the Jesuit Refugee Service UK. The day brought together academics working in theology and related disciplines, practitioners serving refugees, and - most importantly - those seeking asylum themselves. Videos taken during the conference can be viewed here.

Religious Life Institute

The Religious Life Institute was set up in 2007 as an initiative from the Conference of Religious of England and Wales and from religious involved in initial and lifelong formation of religious, both female and male, apostolic and monastic contemplative. With generous funding from the Conference of Religious and from Porticus it was able to start as an institute within Heythrop. Its stated mission has been to foster a theological vision of Christian religious life through study and research through offering accredited courses of study about the religious life in English to British and overseas students, undertaking in-depth research about the religious life and supporting religious life today by:

  • fostering a new generation of writers and experts to help religious look beyond the post-conciliar agenda
  • developing a renewed appreciation of the place of the consecrated life within the Church
  • generating good materials that reflect this understanding and making them widely available through a variety of media.

Study and Resources

The RLI developed a successful MA module in theology of religious life validated by the University of London and undertook research into the theology, spirituality and current state of religious life worldwide. It also sponsored highly successful study days for religious by visiting lecturers including: Gerry A. Arbuckle SM; Paul Bednarczyk CSC; Brendan Callaghan SJ; Gregory Collins OSB; Helen Costigane SHCJ; Prof. Celia Deane-Drummond; Archbishop Rino Fisichella; Vivien Keely SHF; Nicholas King SJ; Siobhan O’Keeffe SHJM; Tom O’Connor MI; Timothy Radcliffe OP; Sandra Schneiders IHM; Gemma Simmonds CJ; Archbishop Joseph Tobin CSsR. Two books have emerged from these early years, both edited by Gemma Simmonds: A Future Full of Hope? and A Future Built on Faith.


In 2016, with funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation we undertook the Religious Life Vitality Project, whose key findings can be found online.

The main launch of the findings took place in London at the international conference, From Daughters of the Church to Citizens of the World: a Transnational Study of Catholic Sisters and the Second Vatican Council organized with the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame University, USA The project has been further taken across the world to religious in the UK and Ireland, in Europe, Asia, Africa, the USA and Oceania. The Vitality Project was undertaken by the RLI, the Margaret Beaufort Institute in Cambridge and the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has funded two further research projects supporting the vitality and sustainability of religious life in apostolic congregations of Catholic sisters in the UK, Ireland and East Africa. The research team consists of Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ, Dr. Catherine Sexton and Dr. María Calderón Muñoz of the Margaret Beaufort Institute, Cambridge, with the overall supervision of Prof. Paul Murray of Durham University. This second phase of research will comprise two separate projects and will be presented at conferences in the UK and Rome in 2019:

  • Religious Life Africa: considering the sources and nature of sustainability in women’s religious life (apostolic congregations) in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia
  • Discerning the Future: Expectations and Challenges for New Entrants to Religious Life: a project focussing on the hopes for and challenges of religious life for entrants, and those who have considered entering apostolic women’s religious life since 2000.

The Religious Life Institute is continuing its worked based at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge. For further information contact the Director, Dr. Gemma Simmonds CJ at gmcas2@cam.ac.uk