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Author Topic: Fate of Halki Seminary tied to constitutional change  (Read 1011 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: June 12, 2009, 09:30:21 AM »

Fate of Halki Seminary tied to constitutional change  
http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=177820&bolum=100
 
Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary  
A high-ranking government official has said the opening of the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary in İstanbul is not possible without a change in the Constitution because the opening of private religious schools has been banned in Turkey. State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek told Today's Zaman that the Turkish Constitution does prohibit the establishment of private religious schools.                   

“The Turkish Constitution and related regulations do not make the opening of private religious schools possible. If you are going to introduce new rules regarding human rights and freedoms, you need to do it for all groups equally. How are you going to process the demands of the other groups if you open the Greek seminary?” Çiçek asked. Established in 1844 on the island of Heybeliada, Halki Seminary was closed in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control.

It was the only school where Turkey's Greek minority educated clergy. The theological school once trained generations of Greek Orthodox leaders, including the current Patriarch Bartholomew, who is one of its 900 graduates.

Civil society groups have been long arguing it that was closed unlawfully and that its reopening will require political will to bypass obstacles from anti-EU groups in Turkey.

Regarding external pressures for a settlement to the issue, Turkey's chief negotiator for accession talks with the European Union, Egemen Bağış, had said that this is an internal matter, not a foreign policy issue. Bağış had reacted to a statement of the European Union's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, who tied the issue to the long-standing Cyprus problem.

Evaluating the matter as a human rights issue, Bağış said they are looking for formulas to reopen the school and said the Cabinet will discuss it.

During his historic visit to Turkey in April, US President Barack Obama also talked about the steps Turkey can take – such as reopening Halki Seminary -- to send a message to the world regarding Turkey's further steps forward in freedom of religion and expression issues.

In order to bypass constitutional obstacles, not only the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) but also the previous governments have offered formulas such as having the Halki Seminary under the Ministry of Education or the Higher Education Board (YÖK). But the Patriarchate rejected it.

The government also would like to pursue a constitutional amendment, but the main opposition parties, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), do not support it.

Another obstacle in front of the opening of the seminary is the Turkish military. Until 2004, a military document listed the Halki Seminary as one of the “threatening” factors related to the military's perception that the school supported the foreign forces that invaded Turkey during the War of Independence. The military took the school off of the list, but it remains cold to the idea of the reopening of the school.

The military is also uneasy about reopening a school in which there will be permission for religious attire, as this might lead to the freedom of religious dress in Turkish schools.

In that regard, observers say the issue also relates to Turkey's interpretation of secularism, because some groups are concerned that providing minorities with their religious rights could force the government to grant more rights to its Muslim citizens. They say if this mistrust is alleviated, the Halki Seminary issue will be more easily resolved.

On the other hand, the Patriarchate rejected the government's formulas of putting the seminary under either the Ministry of Education or YÖK because the Patriarchate is an institution under the assurance of international law, as Article 40 of the Treaty of Lausanne states. The Patriarchate argued that Halki Seminary has never been a college or university, but only a minority school or religious institution as defined under the Treaty of Lausanne.

The main request of the Greek Patriarchate is to open the seminary as a private school affiliated with the Ministry of Education, which would oversee its administration.
 
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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2009, 09:31:07 PM »

The Halki Seminary and the Patriarchate's Existential Crisis

By Allen Yekikan On July 30, 2009

AFP reported on Thursday that the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Bartholomew I, was hopeful Turkey would re-open a historic seminary it shut down nearly four decades ago. The Halki Orthodox Theological Seminary, located on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul, w as the key Patriarchical institution for educating the Greek Orthodox Community and training its future clergy for more than a century before it was closed down by the Turkish government in 1971.

The Patriarch was responding to signals last week by Turkey's Culture Minister that Ankara is planning to re-open the Greek seminary, considered vital to the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

The Turkish Government forcibly closed down the  Seminary under a law bringing Turkish universities under the state's control. Another law, however, made it illegal for anyone to enter the Orthodox priesthood unless they have graduated from Halki.

Since the closure of the Halki Seminary, the Patriarchate has faced insurmountable barriers in staffing the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out the Church's many administrative and spiritual responsibilities. The only option left for the Patriarchate has been to bring clergymen and individuals from abroad to work at the ecumenical patriarchate, often illegally, since the Turkish government does not give them work permits.

Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no property rights in Turkey and is taxed beyond excess. Under Turkish law, the General Directorate of Welfare Foundations has the power to unilaterally confiscate minority properties.

Along with the Halki Seminary, the Turkish Government has confiscated (usually secretly) 75 % of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's properties, including homes, apartment buildings, schools, land, churches, monasteries, and even cemeteries.

On March 20, 2006 the government erased the name of the Patriarchate from the ownership deed of the Orphanage of Buyukada, replacing it with the name of a minority foundation it had seized in 1997. This move resulted in the effective confiscation of the orphanage.

The Turkish government proceeded with the confiscation despite an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the Patriarchate in 2005. The Orphanage, which is the largest wooden building in Europe, had been a Patriarchal institution, celebrating 550 years of continuous service under the care and guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, preserving the Orthodox Faith, Hellenic Ideals and Greek Education.

In the eyes of the Turkish government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist as a legal entity, and as a result, has virtually no rights. Although it was established in 451 AD, Turkish authorities refuse to recognize the Patriarchate as "Ecumenical" or International.

Turkish law has relegated this 2,000 year-old church, which serves as the focal point of Orthodox Christendom, to a Turkish institution.

As a result, the Turkish government also controls the process by which the Ecumenical Patriarch is selected. Through illegal decrees, the government has imposed heavy restrictions on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, requiring the Patriarch and the Hierarchs that elect him to be Turkish citizens. The very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been put in jeopardy as a consequence of these decrees.

Turkish law requires that even priests must be Turkish citizens. This excludes eligible clergy from around the world from attending to Turkey's Greek community, which now numbers less than 3,000-most of which are elderly and not eligible candidates.

There are currently roughly 200 Greek Orthodox Clergymen who live in Turkey and are Turkish citizens. Without the Halki Seminary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been forced to send its future clerics outside the country for training. Un fortunately, most do not return home. These restrictions severely limit not only who can become a priest, but also who can become the Ecumenical Patriarch.

These policies are wearing away at the Christian presence in Turkey and threaten to eventually wipe out the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which stands as a 2,000 year-old spiritual beacon for more than 300,000 million orthodox Christians around the world.

Since 1923, successive Turkish Governments have subjected the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a protracted and systemic campaign of institutional and cultural repression, squeezing the country's Greek minority and its religious institutions to the point of complete exhaustion and despair.

Despite direct stipulations in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey must legally recognize and protect its religious minorities, Christian communities in Turkey currently face unfair official restrictions regarding the ownership and operation of churches and seminaries. The=2 0Turkish Government interferes in the selection of their religious leaders.

Christian education has all but vanished, while freedom of expression and association, although provided for on paper, tend to get people killed.

This political climate of religious repression has, for decades, encouraged extremists to attack the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul defacing its walls and desecrating its cemeteries.

In 1955, riots broke out in Istanbul and quickly turned into pogroms against Greeks as 73 Orthodox churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned, or destroyed; 1,004 houses of Orthodox citizens were looted; and 4,348 stores, 110 hotels, 27 pharmacies, and 21 factories were destroyed. The Greek Orthodox population in 1955 was 100,000. In 1998, a Greek Orthodox official was murdered at his church, Saint Therapon, in Istanbul. The church was then robbed and set on fire.

Growing focus on Turkey in recent years and the country's bid to join the European Union, has raised awareness and concern about the fate of the Patriarchate among governments, organizations and people around the world.   The European Union has long asked Turkey to re-open the seminary in order to prove its commitment to human rights as it strives to become a member of the bloc.

The Turkish Government, keen to boost its European credentials as it seeks EU membership, says it may finally take steps to prevent the destruction of one of the world's oldest Christian churches and its Congregation.

The bitter reality is that the very existence of the Patriarchate has been threatened by the very government that is now vaguely promising to save it.

Turkish authorities have been issued such promises for decades.

-----------------
Article printed from Asbarez News: http://www.asbarez.com

URL to article: http://www.asbarez.com/2009/07/30/the-halki-seminary-and-the-patriarchates-existential-crisis/




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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2009, 01:11:27 PM »

Quite frankly, I think one of the best things the Ecumenical Patriarch could do for the Church would be to go into voluntary exile.

The Patriarch of Antioch has had his seat in Damascus since, I think, the 12th century.

Move the seate of the Patriarch of Constantinople to Patmos, or Geneva, or, better still, Washington D.C., and escape from the Turkish Yoke once and for all.  If the EP wants to push his interpretation of Canon 28, let him come and live among his "barbarian" flock, instead of clinging to the old Imperial capital.  The last slim chance of reestablishing the Empire died with the last Tsar and the loss of the Second Greco-Turkish War.  Let him live in the new "imperial capital" and contribute to North American unity.
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« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2009, 01:33:08 PM »

The article Irish Hermit posted apart from two first paragraphs does not add anything new to the case. And even the fact that Patriarch Bartholomew hopes that Halki School will be reopened also isn't very suprising. It has many important facts but IMO it's an overuse to call it news report.
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2009, 02:22:15 PM »

Quite frankly, I think one of the best things the Ecumenical Patriarch could do for the Church would be to go into voluntary exile.

The Patriarch of Antioch has had his seat in Damascus since, I think, the 12th century.

Move the seate of the Patriarch of Constantinople to Patmos, or Geneva, or, better still, Washington D.C., and escape from the Turkish Yoke once and for all.  If the EP wants to push his interpretation of Canon 28, let him come and live among his "barbarian" flock, instead of clinging to the old Imperial capital.  The last slim chance of reestablishing the Empire died with the last Tsar and the loss of the Second Greco-Turkish War.  Let him live in the new "imperial capital" and contribute to North American unity.

Better Patmos for more than one reason.

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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2009, 04:34:23 PM »

Quite frankly, I think one of the best things the Ecumenical Patriarch could do for the Church would be to go into voluntary exile.

The Patriarch of Antioch has had his seat in Damascus since, I think, the 12th century.

Move the seate of the Patriarch of Constantinople to Patmos, or Geneva, or, better still, Washington D.C., and escape from the Turkish Yoke once and for all.  If the EP wants to push his interpretation of Canon 28, let him come and live among his "barbarian" flock, instead of clinging to the old Imperial capital.  The last slim chance of reestablishing the Empire died with the last Tsar and the loss of the Second Greco-Turkish War.  Let him live in the new "imperial capital" and contribute to North American unity.

I don't think His All-Holiness is to keen on abandoning his flock in Constantinople to save himself.  There are still thousands of Orthodox suffering in Constantinople.  And some might argue with my use of the word "thousands."  Okay, even if it's just one person.  I don't think he will abandon them.  And if he did (which I certainly wouldn't blame or judge him for-- in fact I'd probably be glad), then the criticism coming from posts such as yours (if I am reading your tone correctly), would instead be, "he abandoned his flock!  What kind of bishop is he?!"  Sort of a darned if you do, darned if you don't type of situation, isn't it?

I just knew when I was reading the article that Irish Hermit posted (which, though I have read it before, still made me cry like a baby), that I was going to read some nasty post right after it, criticizing the Patriarch.  What kind of Christians are we, that in the face of such persecution, instead of helping, supporting, or at least cheering for our Orthodox brethren and leaders, we criticize and belittle?  For heaven's sake, if you want to criticize, at least do it on the appropriate thread!

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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2009, 08:13:55 PM »

^Well said Presbytera.
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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2009, 09:19:46 PM »

If His Most Divine All-Holiness should make a decision to reside somewhere other than Constantinople, I think that cognisance should be taken of the fact that, per canon 28,  he is Patriarch of All the Barbarians and his See and his ministry should be relocated to wherever barbarians predominate.

Come to think of it, when it comes to barbarians I suppose that Turkey is as good a place as any for his residence.

Are you laughing?  Well, don't.  Re-read canon 28.
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2009, 09:27:11 PM »

[I just knew when I was reading the article that Irish Hermit posted (which, though I have read it before, still made me cry like a baby),

  Me too, Presvitera.

I sent it because I was so saddened by the state of the Patriarchate and that article draws together all the adverse factors.

There are some Orthodox, especially Slavs, who have difficulties with the Great Throne's interpretation of canon 28 as establishing Constantinople as the Patriarch of the Barbarians but that is a separate issue.  Let us pray for the well-being of this most ancient See.

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