16:50 Jun. 19, 2016
Orthodox leaders gather in Crete as Russian church skips the week-long meeting
The first in over 1,200 years synod of Orthodox churches has started on the Greek island of Crete. However, Russia and several other churches refused to participate in it.
The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church opened with a mass by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The representatives of the Orthodox churches met for the first time since 787 AD. More than 200 bishops from 14 Churches were expected to take part in the gathering.
The Churches of Antioch, Bulgaria, Georgia and Russia refused to attend the historic council after disputes about the agenda. 170 bishops are now reported to be present at the council. The meeting will run until June 27.
Two days before the meeting, Ukraine's congregation and priesthood published a petition asking Patriarch Bartholomew to facilitate the unification of Ukraine's Orthodox churches.
The petition came after Ukrainian MPs addressed the Patriarch requesting him to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine from Moscow's Patriarchate.