13:14 Jun. 18, 2016
Russian Patriarch Kirill reiterated Friday his church would not attend unique council
A historic attempt to bring together all leaders of the world's Orthodox churches for the first time in more than a millennium has stalled after the powerful Russian church and three others pulled out at the last minute over disputes ranging from the seating plan to efforts to reconcile with the Vatican.
The Holy and Great Council, set to open Sunday on the Greek island of Crete, was to be the first meeting of all Orthodox leaders since the year 787, when the last of the seven councils recognized by both Orthodox and Catholics was held. The meeting is still on, but with the Russian Orthodox Church and three others staying away, its pan-Orthodox aura has faded.
Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, considered "the first among equals" since the time when Constantinople was the seat of the Byzantine Empire, has been the main driving force behind efforts to bring together the leaders of all 14 independent Orthodox churches. The gathering, for which preparations began 55 years ago, was meant to promote unity among the world's more than 300 million Orthodox Christians. But in recent weeks, differences that at first seemed minor escalated as the date for the meeting approached.