Erdogan Tells Obama: Theological School of Halki to Reopen

Posted by in Turkey-GR

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently decided to reopen the Greek Orthodox Theological School of Halki. Erdogan revealed his decision to US President Barack Obama during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea. “I congratulated the Prime Minister on the efforts that he’s made within Turkey to protect religious minorities.  I am pleased to hear of his decision to reopen the Halki Seminary” Obama said according to a White House statement including a transcription of the meeting of the two leaders. 

Reopening the Halki Seminary would be a major relief for the training of Greek Orthodox priests. The Theological School was closed down in 1971 after a decision of the Turkish government.

The Halki seminary, formally the Theological School of Halkiwas founded on 1 October 1844 on the island of Halki (now called Heybeliada), one of the  Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara. It was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until the Turkish government stopped its use in 1971.  1971, parts of the Private University Law were ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Turkey, which ruled that all private colleges must be affiliated with a state-run university; subsequently all private institutions of higher education either became part of state universities or closed down. It was stated in Article 130 of the Turkish Constitution of 1961 that: “Foundations are allowed to establish nonprofit colleges that are under state supervision and inspections”.

Halki’s Board of Trustees could not agree to supervision by the state.  Consequently, the seminary section of the Halki school was closed down and although the high school remains open the Turkish government no longer permits students to attend it. (read more about the Halki Seminary Here)

However members of the Greek community in Istanbul consider that reopening the school does not mean that all the problems of the community would be solved. Halki Seminary would reopen after some six months, I had read somewhere last week.

Turkey has decided to reopen a former Greek Orthodox seminary on an island off the Istanbul coast, according to a statement made by US President Barack Obama.

Turkey to reopen Halki Seminary, Obama says

“I am pleased to hear of his decision to reopen the Halki seminary,” the American President said after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of a two-day nuclear security summit in Seoul on Sunday.

The European Union has said re-opening Halki seminary, a centre of Orthodox scholarship for more than a century until Turkey closed it down in 1971, is key if Ankara is to prove a commitment to human rights and pluralism and advance its membership bid.

During the meeting in Seoul, the two leaders discussed ways to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, including non-lethal assistance to the opposition and getting Iran to stop supporting Assad’s regime.

Obama is expected to visit Turkey for the second time in June, Erdogan said. (Kathimerini)

Will this mean that Obama may come to Greece too?