World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

24 July 2001

Stanley Jedidiah Samartha (1920-2001)

Rev. Dr Stanley J. Samartha, first director of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) sub-unit on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies from 1970-1981, died peacefully in Bangalore, India, after a prolonged illness, on July 22.

In a letter of condolence to Dr O.V. Jathanna, principal of the United Theological College in Bangalore, of which Dr Samartha was a member of the faculty, Mr Georges Lemopoulos, acting general secretary of the WCC, wrote:

"Dr Samartha is remembered with great respect and appreciation for his remarkable contribution to the ecumenical movement and his pioneering efforts in making the concern for dialogue with neighbours of other faiths an enduring commitment in the World Council of Churches...

Those who worked with him speak of his clarity of vision, his excellent leadership and his meticulousness in research and expression. He created space for representatives of other faiths, inviting them in openness and generosity to the table for dialogue. His contributions have set the stage for all subsequent work the WCC has done in inter-faith dialogue. Dr Samartha entered into the discussion with other religions with humility and sensitivity, but also with integrity and hope as one who was faithful to the risen Christ.

The Church of South India and the Indian Church has lost a great leader, particularly in the area of theological education. His many years on the theological faculty of the Karnataka Theological College in Mangalore, Serampore College in Calcutta, and United Theological College in Bangalore have undoubtedly left a lasting impression on theological education in India and beyond because of his commitment to ensure that all students of theology learn about the living faiths in Asia. His own area of specialization in Hindu-Christian dialogue becomes even more relevant in India today with the increasing tensions between these two communities and the struggle of the churches in India to respond in a meaningful and creative way.

Please accept our prayerful condolences which I request you to kindly convey to Mrs. Iris Samartha and their children. Please also convey to them the prayers of WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser, who is presently away, but whom we have contacted with the news of the passing away of a colleague and friend."

Dr Samartha studied at Madras University, United Theological College in Bangalore, Union Theological Seminary in New York and the Hartford Seminary Foundation. He also did post-graduate studies at the University of Basel. In addition to his work as lecturer, professor and principal, he was the author of a number of books, including The Courage for Dialogue (WCC, 1981) and Between Two Cultures: Ecumenical Ministry in a Pluralist World (WCC, 1996).

The funeral service will take place today at 4.00 p.m. at St Mark's Cathedral, Bangalore.

For more information contact Media Relations Office
Tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153
Top of page

2001 press releases

WCC homepage

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.