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Turkey: Halki Seminary remains closed despite Turkish government promise to the Ecumenical Patriarchate

As this article notes, the Theological School of Halki was forcibly closed down by Turkish authorities in 1971. Since its closure, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has had to send the young men from its community desiring to enter the priesthood to one of the theological schools in Greece. In many instances, they do not return, given the onerous restrictions in getting work permits and the general climate of intimidation that unfortunately still prevails in Turkey. Despite promises by the Turkish government to reopen our theological school, there has been no progress. Left unresolved, the administrative functioning and the very future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is imperiled. The closing of the Halki Seminary is a direct restriction of the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Christians of Turkey; its reopening should be a priority for the U.S. government in its dealings with Turkey, and for all governments that are committed to the defense of religious freedom worldwide.

“Turkey’s Halki Seminary remains closed despite promise to Patriarchate – Greek juorno [sic],” Ahval News, November 24, 2018:

Pressure on Turkish government might be the reason why the Heybeliada Theological School (Halki Seminary) remains closed despite repeated promises, Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted Mihail Vasiliadis, the editor-in-chief of Greek language daily Apoyevmatini, as saying.

The spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in April said that he had expected the theological school in Istanbul to be reopened no later than September.

“How many Septembers have passed. They said it would be opened in 24 hours, but how many 24 hours have passed,” said Vasiliadis, adding that Bartholomew made the announcement after he was given assurance about the opening of the Halki Seminary.

The Halki Seminary is a symbol of the rights of minority groups in Turkey and its situation has been cited in various reports on the issue, particularly in the annual country reports for Turkey prepared by the European Commission.

The theological school was founded in 1844 and operated until 1971 when the Turkish authorities decided to close it. The decision to shut down the school made it very difficult for the Patriarchate in Istanbul to survive as the school was its only facility in Turkey to train clergy.

“They are renovating the sanatorium on the hill across the school to turn it into an Islamic Cultural Centre or a religious facility. I wish the theological school to be opened too. It will be both good and interesting for Turkey to have two different religions, cultures there,” Vasiliadis said.

“But this does not happen. I think pressures made to the government prevents it,” he said.  “I am not thinking as a Greek, but as a Turkish citizen. Why don’t they open a school that is an honour for Turkey and does no harm. I have demanded the reopening of the school all my life.”…

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