Can 'saints and martyrs' – or simply Christians who lived exemplary lives – give focus to the Christian task in the C21st, and also help unite the churches into which they were born? An international group of experts will discuss these and related questions at a symposium in an Italian monastery.
Throughout the history of the church, men and women have set examples of Christian life that constitute a rich heritage to the ecumenical movement, say the organisers.
An international symposium to take place at the monastery of Bose, Italy from 29 October to 2 November 2008 will discuss how the joint remembrance of those witnesses to the faith can contribute to an ecumenical spirituality.
About 80 internationally acknowledged theologians and church leaders from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal backgrounds are expected to participate. Speakers include Dr Mary Tanner, World Council of Churches (WCC) president from Europe. The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has submitted a paper to be read on his behalf.
"There is growing awareness that witnesses to the faith, both contemporary and from the past, do not belong only to individual confessional groups but are the common heritage and a source of inspiration for the whole christendom and beyond," said Tamara Grdzelidze, a programme executive of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order.
"This symposium aims to share in the richness of holiness and martyrdom as experienced in various church traditions and contexts and to see how this awareness may further our reconciliation and mutual understanding," Grdzelidze added.
As part of the symposium, an ecumenical commemoration of Christian witnesses will take place on Saturday, 1 November, the Feast of All Saints in the tradition of Western Christianity.
The symposium is part of the project "A cloud of witnesses" carried out jointly by the WCC Commission on Faith and Order and the monastery of Bose.