Ecumenical Patriarch: “Erdoğan says ‘if there is no mosque in Athens, no seminary’.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch, based in Istanbul, has said that his church has been blocked from reopening the historical Halki Seminary in Turkey on the basis of Greece’s refusal to open a mosque in Athens, the T24 news website said.

“I told Mr. Erdoğan one or two times,” Patriarch Bartholomeus I said. “His answer was ‘there is no mosque in Athens’.”

“It is as if I am responsible for there being no mosque in Athens. I do not understand how they can hold the Patriarchate responsible.”

The Halki Seminary, built in 1844 on Halki island in the Sea of Marmara, trained Greek Orthodox Priests until it was shut down as part of a blanket ban on higher educational institutions following the 1971 coup.

The patriarch is first among equals of the heads of the Orthodox Church and has been based in Istanbul since the city, then known as Constantinople, was the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

“We (Christians) are Turkish citizens. We pay taxes. We do military service,” Bartholomeus said.

“There are 25 or 30 theology faculties (in Turkey). Our Muslim brothers can easily train their religious men. But Christians had a single school and that was closed.”