Nov 24 2018

Turkey’s Halki Seminary remains closed despite promise to Patriarchate - Greek juorno

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.”

In fact, keeping the school closed have negative consequences for Turkey as the Patriarchate has no chance but to educate its clergy in other places, according to Vasiliadis.

“They come here after being raised under different ethnic nationalist influences. If instead students were to be educated in Turkey, they would not be raised by information on Turkey based on hearsay, but will have an opinion about the country by living in it and through their own experiences,” he said.