Moscow, March 5 (Interfax) – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will head to Istanbul on Wednesday, where a meeting of the heads of the Orthodox Churches is opening.
"Despite all wishes for a change of the date of the meeting, which have more than once been stated by the Russian Church, the heads and representatives of local Orthodox Churches will meet in the first week of Lent and is expected to end on Sunday, March 9," Deacon Alexander Volkov, the head of the patriarch's press service, told Interfax-Religion on Wednesday.
Patriarch Kirill said he regrets that he cannot "pray with his flock in the coming days of the first week of Lent."
Deacon Volkov also said that Patriarch Kirill will pray for the strengthening of all Russian Christians who have started Lent during his stay in the Constantinople Patriarchate, on the land sanctified by the deeds of ancient ascetic champions.
"The Russian patriarch is also asking everyone to pray that the upcoming meeting serve the unity of the Orthodox Churches and strengthen mutual understanding and brotherly cooperation," Father Alexander said.
The Synodal Department for External Church Relations, for its part, told Interfax-Religion that the meeting will address issues relating to the preparations for the upcoming All-Orthodox Council and the situation of Christians in the Middle East.
The All-Orthodox Council has not convened for more than 1,000 years. Preparations for it have been made for more than fifty years. The agenda and regulations of the Council have not been approved yet.