Published by The National Herald, September 12, 2004
Turks Say No to Reopen Halki School
By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald
BOSTON - The Theological School of Halki of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate will not open as was highly expected and despite the many
assurances given by the Turkish government to U.S. President George
Bush during his visit to Turkey last June, and to Greek Orthodox
According to exclusive information acquired by The National Herald,
the Council of National Security of Turkey has decided to "freeze"
indefinitely the issue of reopening the Theological School of Halki.
The Herald has learned that the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan
was confronted with strong opposition, even threats, by the military
generals and other high-ranking army officials-members of the Council
of National Security. It should be noted that the army continues to
play a pivotal role in the governance of Turkey despite the secular
form of government in place.
The issue of reopening the Theological School of Halki was discussed
during Bush's visit to Turkey last June during the NATO summit. Prime
Minister Erdogan had also assured Prime Minister of Greece Costas
Karamanlis during Erdogan's official visit to Athens just a few months
ago that the reopening of the school was imminent.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has not been officially informed as yet of
the negative decision of the Turkish Council of National Security,
neither has it been reported in any other media outlet. The Turks were
afraid that a possible leak of their negative decision regarding Halki
during the official visit of the European Enlargement Commissioner
Guenther Verheugen this past week would have a negative impact on
Turkey's attempts to secure specific dates to open the process for its
accession into the European Union.
The Theological School of Halki was forced by the Turkish government
to cease operations in 1971. Its buildings have been well kept all
these 33 years and today it is operating as a Monastery of Holy
Trinity headed by its Abbot, Metropolitan Apostolos of Mochonisia.
Some three years ago the Turks even prohibited the use of the
facilities of Halki for purely social conferences, meetings and
seminars, such as those on the environment.
The "gray wolves" who attacked the Patriarchate and Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomaios last Sunday (see related story) are
threatening to organize more and stronger demonstrations against the
Headquarters of the Patriarchate and its Prelate, Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomaios. The leader of the "gray wolves" in recent statements in
their newspaper, "Yeni Char," called the Theological School of Halki a
training center of "Christian talibans."
Knowledgeable sources of the ecclesiastical and ethnic matters of the
Greek Orthodox Community of Constantinople told the Herald that "the
ultimate purpose of the Turks is to take over completely the
Theological School of Halki , as they have done for so many other
Greek Orthodox institutions of Constantinople via the Vakoufia
(Department of Religious Affairs).
It should be emphasized that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not
legally fortified in Turkey, which means that the Patriarchate does
not have the right to have ownership nor administrative authority on
the existing institutions, even on those which are purely religious,
such as churches, cemeteries, and monasteries.
If a specific church is not liturgized due to lack of faithful, then
the Turks take over the building, according to law number 2762, which
contradicts Article 40 of the treaty which recognizes the authority of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate on churches and religious institutions. On
the contrary, law 2762 places the churches and the institutions in a
category called "abandoned" and in this way assumes their ownership.
Despite the European orientation Turkey passed in the year 2002,
legislation numbers 4771 and 4778, which provide for the return of the
confiscated properties to their initial owners, the Vakoufia continue
their usual policy and politics of taking over Greek Orthodox