The Halki seminary near Istanbul was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from 1884 until the Turkish parliament enacted a law banning private higher education institutions in 1971. For more than 40 years, the law has kept Orthodox clergy schools closed. But in an encouraging development for religious liberties, Secretary of State John Kerry is urging the Turkish government to reopen the seminaries:
“It is our hope that the Halki seminary will open,” Kerry said during a press conference in Istanbul after two days of talks on the Syrian crisis and the Mideast peace process.
Kerry said he discussed religious freedom in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey and the possible re-opening of the theological schools in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Halki seminary, where Orthodox clergy used to train, is located on an island off Istanbul and was closed in 1971, after Turkey fell out with Greece over Cyprus.
Kerry also met on Sunday the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, whom Turkey considers the spiritual leader only of Turkey’s tiny Greek Orthodox minority.
Both the United States and the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, have increased pressure on Ankara to re-open the seminary as well as introducing further rights for religious minorities in the new constitution it is currently drafting.
(Via: First Things)