Feb 02 2019

Tsipras to visit Halki theological school in Turkey next week

The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet on Wednesday the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Heybeliada Theological School (Halki Seminary) in Istanbul, which was closed down by Turkish authorities in 1971, the National Herald reported on Friday.

Tsipras will pay a two-day official visit to Turkey on Feb. 5 and 6. The Greek prime minister will also meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan next Tuesday in Ankara.  

The Greek government’s spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Thursday announced that Tsipras was also scheduled to visit Bartholomew in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Tsipras will be the first Greek Prime Minister to visit the Halki Seminary since 1933, when Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos visited the theological school.

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.

Since the beginning of accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union in 2005, the Turkish government has repeatedly promised to reopen the school, but no progress has been made. Bartholomew last year in May said that he expected the seminary to be reopened no later than September.