• January 14, 2002
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    Orthodox Leader Visits Iran
Orthodox Leader Visits Iran TEHRAN, Iran (AP)--On his first visit to Iran, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians appealed Saturday for dialogue and tolerance between Islam and Christianity.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said that following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, there was a greater need for Christianity, Judaism and Islam to promote dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

``We find ourselves before two ways: violent imposition of our views and aims, or dialogue about finding means of peaceful coexistence with those who disagree with us,'' Bartholomew told a seminar in the capital, Tehran.

The seminar was held at the Institute for Political and International Studies, which is affiliated to the Foreign Ministry.

``If we continue to disagree, despite having dialogue, we are obligated to tolerate each other in peace, one of the highest wills of God. If we act on this, we please God,'' he said, speaking in English.

Bartholomew arrived in Iran on Friday for a four-day visit. On Sunday, he is scheduled to meet Iran's President Mohammad Khatami and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He is also due to lead a mass at a Greek Orthodox church in Tehran. His trip ends Monday after a trip to the ancient city of Isfahan.

Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of 14 autonomous Orthodox churches, including those of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. He is based in Istanbul, Turkey, a throwback to the Byzantine Empire when the city was overwhelmingly Orthodox and called Constantinople.

Iran's population of 70 million includes about 150,000 Christians, two-thirds of whom are Armenian Orthodox Christians.