Europe

World Orthodox leaders meet despite Russia's absence

  • In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox Partiarchs taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council celebrate Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. 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. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)

    In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox Partiarchs taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council celebrate Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. 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. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox Patriarchs taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council sit outside the church of St. Titus before celebrating Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. 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. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)

    In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox Patriarchs taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council sit outside the church of St. Titus before celebrating Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. 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. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox priests taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council celebrate Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. 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. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)

    In this Saturday, June 18, 2016 photo released by Holy and Great Council, Orthodox priests taking part in the historic Holy and Great Council celebrate Vespers of Pentecost in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. 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. (Sean Hawkey/Holy and Great Council via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The leaders of the world's Orthodox Christian churches have gathered on the Greek island of Crete for a landmark meeting, despite a boycott by the Russian church — the most populous in a religion of some 300 million people.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew led prayers attended by other church leaders Sunday on the eve of the weeklong summit held following decades of preparation.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and leaders of two allied churches are not attending the meetings, arguing that preparation had been inadequate. In a statement Friday, Kirill said he hoped religious leaders gathered in Crete could prepare for a full meeting at a later date.

Kirill visited Greece last month, joining Russian President Vladimir Putin on a trip to the monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos.