Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, said on Wednesday that a historic meeting of church leaders – the first in more than a millennium – will take place despite a pullout by Russia, the fourth Orthodox church to say that it will not attend the June gathering in Crete.
Vartholomaios, who is based in Istanbul, said he hoped the Russian church and three others would change their mind.
“This great event is overshadowed by the decision of certain churches not to attend,” Vartholomaios said on his arrival in the Cretan port of Hania on Wednesday.
“The responsibility for their decisions will burden their churches,” he said.
He added that he hoped the religious leaders in question would, “even at the last minute, review their decisions, respect their signatures and be present here, on Crete,” noting that the heads of all Orthodox churches had signaled their willingness to attend the event at a meeting in Geneva in January.
The weeklong, gathering, dubbed the Holy and Great Council, is to begin on Sunday.
The meeting has been in the works for more than half a century and had been intended to bring together leaders of 14 independent Orthodox churches to promote unity among the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians.