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parent context for a web app started from embedded tomcat

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i have java app that initializes the application context.
From within that context i also start the embeded tomcat. Now there is one webapp that also uses the applicationcontext from where it got started.
To do this i extend ContextLoaderListener and there i set the reference of the main applicationContext.
I would like to ask can this be done in a declarative way, i mean setting some property in web.xml or something like that?

I guess, declaraing the parent-context-key property tries to reinitialize the application context.

Help please?
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