Michal Valčo

Michal Valčo is a Professor of Religious Studies at the Greek Catholic Theological Faculty, University of Prešov in Slovakia.

He received his Master of Divinity studies at the Lutheran Theological Faculty of Comenius University (LTF CU), Bratislava. He spent the fall semester of 1999 at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, PA. His doctoral studies were completed in 2005 at the Lutheran Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava [Dissertation Thesis: The Sources and Meaning of Martin Chemnitz’s Christology in his Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper]. In the Fall semester of 2010 he became a Copenhaver Visiting Scholar at Roanoke College, Salem, VA. Two years later, he became visiting Professors of Religion at Roanoke College between August 2012 – May 2013. In 2014-16 he served as Head of Department of Religious Studies at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Zilina in Zilina, where he held the position of Associate Professor of Religious Studies and since September 2015 Appointed Professor of Religious Studies. In February 2017, he became head of the Department of General and Applied Ethics, holding the chair of Associate Professor of Ethics at the Faculty of Arts, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia. As of September 2018, he holds the chair of Research Professor at the Greek Catholic Theological Faculty, University of Prešov in Prešov.

Professor Michal Valčo received his habilitation in the area of Religious Studies at the Greek Catholic Theological Faculty of Prešov University in Prešov, Slovakia (March 2013) [Habilitation Thesis: The Apologetic and Ecumenical Potential of Luther’s Theological-Religious Emphases] and in June 2018 he was inaugurated to full professorship in Religious Studies at the same faculty. In August 2015, he became a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Salzburg, Austria. His research interest focuses on selected topics/authors of Philosophy of Religion (especially S. Kierkegaard, Ch. Taylor, and D. Bonhoeffer), the theology of Martin Luther and Leonard Stöckel, the situation of the churches under and after the era of totalitarianism, and contemporary challenges in theological/philosophical ethics related to artificial intelligence and biotechnologies.

Research project: The place and role of religion and interreligious dialogue in a secular society: A comparative study on the situation in Poland and Slovakia

Questions regarding the importance of (1) religion as a complex phenomenon in a secular society; and of (2) cultivating an intentional, sincere interreligious dialogue that recognizes and breaks down negative stereotypes and prejudices, now become more relevant than ever. The European societies must face the task of actively facilitating and promoting (politically, culturally, educationally, socially, as well as by means of mass media) a culture of dialogue and respect based on (a) a solid understanding of the historical backgrounds, current teachings, practices, institutional structures, habits, ethos and sensibilities of different religious groups; (b) the recognition of our mutual, human interdependence; (c) a patient process of dialogical interactions and mutual engagements in local neighbourhoods; and (d) the recognition of our need for solidarity with one another.
The goal of my research will be (necessarily) limited. I will specifically focus on the historical circumstances and contemporary realities in Slovakia and Poland, two of the Visegrad countries that shared a similar history in the 20th century. I will look for answers to the following questions:
(1)    What was the specific development of the place and role of religion in society and the interreligious dialogue in Poland and Slovakia in the course of the 20th century?
a.    prior to WWII;
b.    during WWII;
c.    in the era of communist totalitarianism;
d.    after 1989.
(2)    How did the recognition of the place and role of religion in society (or the lack thereof) affect the social cohesion and expressions of religious tolerance in Poland and Slovakia? (the question of the relationship between church and state will be scrutinized in the light of my research question)
(3)    How did the development and cultivation of interreligious dialogue (or the lack thereof) affect the social cohesion and expressions of religious tolerance in Poland and Slovakia?
(4)    What commonalities and differences can be identified in the contemporary Polish and Slovak societies pertaining to the issue of the place and role of religion in society and the cultivation of interreligious dialogue? What implications can be observed?
(5)    What approaches, models, and/or tools can be recommended to advance our understanding of the proper place of religion in society and our cultivation of a competent, constructive interreligious dialogue in Poland and in Slovakia and how are these two interrelated?

The main goal of his research is thus to find new paradigms, models and possibilities related to the place and role of religion in society seen in its necessary complementarity with cultivating and promoting a culture of interreligious dialogue, defined by the specifics of the Polish and Slovak space. In addition, Prof. Valčo wants to explore how these relate to a new ethics of religious peace-building in the light of mutual interdependence and cohesion of individuals and communities; to re-examine the role of moral and intellectual virtues and models of communication in the process; and to re-evaluate the importance of including women's voices in the framework of the interreligious dialogue.

Dates of stay: 01 October 2019 - 31 July 2020