Bartholomew will also lead a mass at a Greek Orthodox church in Tehran, and visit the ancient city of Isfahan. "The Patriarch is hopeful that this visit will make an important contribution to mutual efforts for world peace by helping religions and cultures to gain deeper knowledge of each other," the patriarchate's statement said.
Bartholomew is also the spiritual leader of 14 autonomous Orthodox churches, including those of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, today's Istanbul, in 1453.
Although only a few thousand Greek Orthodox Christians now live in Turkey, the patriarchate has remained in Istanbul and directly controls several Greek Orthodox churches around the world.