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State Department Disappointed at Lack of Progress in Turkey Regarding Religious Freedom Issues

The State Department has expressed its dissatisfaction over the fact that American officials have to raise constantly the issue of the re-opening Theological School of Halki. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford spoke about his personal disappointment during a briefing that followed the presentation of the State Department annual report.

In reply to a question as to whether any progress had taken place on issues of religious freedom in Turkey and especially to the Halki issue, Mr Hanford reported that he and other American diplomats had discussed with the Turkish authorities that issue and felt disappointed with the lack of progress, although he believed that the Theological School was in a position to re-open in the coming days.

He stressed that although there were persons who looked after Halki, and soon students and professors could take their posts, the situation remained in the present status, adding, “We are disappointed that this situation continues”.

He also underlined that limiting the Ecumenical Patriarchate only to Turkish citizens, due to the small number of the Hellene-Orthodox population that numbers 2,500 persons, continues to be a serious issue raised by the American government.

Finally, regarding the confiscation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate property by the Turkish State, he reported that that was an additional issue that he had raised.

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