A total of 33 bishops from 20 different churches in 17 countries will meet in Larne this month for a special conference.
For the first time Northern Ireland will host this encounter which brings bishops together annually in places characterised by collaboration between Christians.
Rather than focusing on governance or doctrine, the bishops learn about the local ecumenical journey, share their own experiences of the Gospel and explore the unifying potential of Christ’s words.
This meeting has been promoted for 38 years by the Focolare Movement. This year’s theme is ‘In a divided world, united in Christ.’
The unique global ecumenical meeting of bishops and church leaders will take place from Monday, October 21 to Friday, October 25.
The bishops will have a session in Larne with those engaged in dialogue in Ireland.
Churches represented at this include amongst others the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Moravian, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Armenian Churches and bodies such as the Irish Council of Churches, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and other initiatives.
Trevor Williams – Church of Ireland retired Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe − who attends such meetings regularly, said: “This meeting is special. There is a wonderful variety of bishops and church leaders from different churches, countries and contexts.
“It is the character of the meeting that makes it special. Instead of having to compose an elegant document on what we have agreed, we are free to listen intently to one another.
“It is my experience that from this deep sharing, a real experience of Christian unity is possible. This is truly inspirational.
“We leave renewed in our commitment to our unity in Christ which transcends our many differences.”