On Sunday the leaders of Orthodox churches from around the world met in Crete for the Pan-Orthodox Council, the first gathering of its kind in over a millennium.
The leaders held mass in the city of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete where they celebrated the Orthodox Pentecost. The group will continue on in Crete until the end of the gathering on June 27.
The absence of Russian Orthodox leader Kyrill, who declined an invitation to the historical event has not gone unnoticed.
Kyrill represents some 130 million orthodox followers in Russia. This totals to half the world’s Orthodox population. His absence has marred the council meeting and has threatened to undermine the projected image of unity among Orthodox leaders that the meeting was to convey.
However Kyrill is not the only absence that has been noted. The Orthodox churches of Bulgaria and Georgia are also absent and the Patriarchate of Antioch refused invitation due to disagreement with Jerusalem over the appointment of clerics in Qatar.
In all, the Orthodox community has about 250 million followers worldwide.
The last time a meeting of such magnitude occurred was in 1054 when Christianity split into the separate followings of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It took over 50 years to work out the details for this current meeting, so it is uncertain when another opportunity for Russia to participate will come to pass.