August 31, 2014

Have GOA Metropolitans become citizens of Turkey?

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In a freewheeling interview with Hurriyet ("Turkey's English Daily") Pat. Bartholomew said (note last sentence): Bartholomew drew particular attention to the seminary problem. “Our generation is gradually becoming extinct, and I have concerns for the future. Where will our ecclesiastics get their education? Moreover, it would be proper to have a Halki Seminary graduate at the top of the Patriarchate. Our ecclesiastics who studied at Halki Seminary and are currently serving abroad are all Turkish-loving people.” Once Turkey’s principal facility for the training of Greek Orthodox clerics, the school was shuttered in 1971 in a ruling that curtailed most private higher education in Turkey. The ban has long been decried by both members of the local Greek community as well as the United States and the European Union. Noting that the Turkish government has taken a significant step and granted the right for Fener Greek Patriarchate affiliated metropolitans serving in several countries … [Read more...]

The Halki Seminary and the Patriarchate’s Existential Crisis

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Azbarez.com 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, was 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. … [Read more...]

The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the ‘Deep State’

Writing in Today's Zaman, Orhan Kemal Cengiz throws a little cold water on current reports that the Halki Seminary may be reopened. Has anything really changed, he asks? Cengiz points to a long campaign, dating back to the Ottoman period, designed to either force the patriarchate to leave or to push it into extinction. The Turkish "deep state" was behind much of this, the writer says. And he places considerable blame for the patriarchate's dire situation on its own passivity. Opinion piece follows: Is the ecumenical patriarchate in Turkey waiting for Godot? By Orhan Kemal Cengiz Since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002, the reopening of the Halki Seminary has repeatedly returned to the political agenda in Turkey. There is almost a pattern. Some government officials say, “There is no harm in reopening the school [which was closed down in 1971], and there are some preparations taking place to that effect.” If you read these statements you can … [Read more...]

‘Istanbul is anxious’

Lots of press attention being paid to the possible reopening of the Halki Seminary in the wake of Patriarch Kirill's visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (The patriarch is now back in Moscow where he met with President Obama.) In his analysis of the Bartholomew-Kirill meeting for Today's Zaman, Ali Murat Yel argues for a reopening of the seminary (known to Turks as Heybeliada) if the Turkish state "wishes to be counted among the civilized and democratic countries in the world." The writer also said that "Istanbul is anxious about the revival and renaissance of the Russian Church, as its weight and power might lead it to claim the overarching leadership of the Orthodox Church in the near future. The claim would not be groundless because the Patriarchate of Moscow has some 95 million followers, which constitute more than one third of the 250 million Orthodox worldwide." Then there's the problem of where to find Turkish clergy for the Ecumenical Patriarchate: The closure of the … [Read more...]

Report: Turkey to reopen Halki Seminary

Turkish newspapers say a deal is in the works. Will there be reciprocity from Greece? When President Obama was in Turkey, there were reports that "the recognition by Greek authorities of muftis in Thrace and financial support for Muslim schools might prompt a Turkish rethink on the Halki school." Here is the story from Hurriyet, the Turkish newspaper: ANKARA - The Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada is to be reopened, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay said, adding that they are searching for a formula to integrate the Orthodox theological school into Turkey’s university system. "Although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary," said Günay, speaking on Kanal 24 television over the weekend. Recalling that the functioning of the Halki seminary is not compatible with the Turkish university system, Günay maintained that work is underway to find a formula for its status. He explained that the question … [Read more...]

Mor Gabriel, Halki and Obama

A very timely story yesterday in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Higgins about a land dispute between Syriac Orthodox monastery Mor Gabriel and Turkish authorities. Also yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, during a stop in Ankara, announced that President Obama will be visiting Turkey "in a month or so." She said this toward the end of her public remarks: I reiterate the Obama Administration’s support for Turkey’s membership in the European Union. The United States believes it will strengthen Turkey, Europe, and our transatlantic partnership. The United States continues to support the UN-sponsored talks now taking place to achieve a settlement of the Cyprus conflict based on reunification of the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We talked about Turkey’s democracy, its multiethnic heritage, and in that context, I raised the importance that we place on reopening the Halki Seminary and efforts to reach out to all of Turkey’s communities. For … [Read more...]

Turkey and Religious Liberty

My interview with Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol was published today in The Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. Our talk focused on the prospects for greater economic and religious liberty in Turkey. Mustafa blogs at The White Path. Excerpt: Let's talk about religious freedom. There's a great tension between the modern secularist path of Turkey, going back to Ataturk, and the revival of Islam and its influence on politics. Will this be a winner take all battle, or is Turkey working out something a little more complex in the future? I say there will be room for all of these views, and Turkey will be more pluralistic than it used to be. Actually, right now, the battle is between the people who want to create room for pluralism and those who want to keep it homogeneously secular. Keep in mind that the founding idea of the Turkish Republic was very monolithic. It picked up the narrative of the French Enlightenment in that secularism would make the country safe from … [Read more...]

‘A Patriarch in Dire Straits’

At the Acton Institute, where I labor as communications director, I published a commentary pegged to Patriarch Bartholomew's forthcoming book, "Encountering the Mystery." The commentary was also picked up by the Assyrian News Agency. Read the full commentary here. In 1971, the Turkish government shut down Halki, the partriarchal seminary on Heybeliada Island in the Sea of Marmara. And it has progressively confiscated Orthodox Church properties, including the expropriation of the Bûyûkada Orphanage for Boys on the Prince's Islands (and properties belonging to an Armenian Orthodox hospital foundation). These expropriations happen as religious minorities report problems associated with opening, maintaining, and operating houses of worship. Many services are held in secret. Indeed, Turkey is a place where proselytizing for Christian and even Muslim minority sects can still get a person hauled into court on charges of "publicly insulting Turkishness." This law has also been used … [Read more...]