The Greek Orthodox community in Turkey is now exploring legal options to force the government to reopen the Halki Seminary, according to Murat Yetkin, editor-in-chief of the Hurriyet Daily News, who was recently hosted on a tour of the school by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Yetkin, who visited the seminary with the patriarch, also said this is “likely to be an issue in Turkey’s relations with the European Union following the current six month EU presidency of Greek Cyprus, which Turkey refuses to recognize”.
The Greek Orthodox theological school near Istanbul was closed to new students in 1971. Its reopening has been a long-standing demand by Greece and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, head of the Greek Church and the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians.
“Inside, the classrooms, the restrooms, the dispenser and the tennis table are all ready for use as soon as the Turkish government will authorize a local education director of Istanbul,” writes Yetkin. “The legal and financial framework is ready too.”
Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, the Metropolitan of Bursa, has been tapped to be the dean of the seminary, if and when it is opened. He is also seen as Bartholomew’s most likely successor.
The Halki Seminary was designed to train Orthodox priests. It was forced to close its doors when Turkey’s constitutional court ordered all private universities to shut down.
“We have paid the political bill of the Cyprus conflict,” said Bartholomew. “We paid the bill of claimed wrongdoings against Muslims of Western Thrace in Greece. Now [Turkish] Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is mentioning a mosque in Athens. I have no objection to that, but neither have I any authority to do that.”
Bartholomew, who is the 270th successor of the 2,000 year-old local Christian Church founded by St. Andrew, said he is running out of patience. He said that soon there will be no Turkish-born and trained Greek priests left to keep churches alive in the country.
“So far, the government said that public opinion and the opposition parties would not let it happen,” the 72-year-old patriarch said. “But now there is no visible public reaction to the reopening of the seminary.”