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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey



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Halki Seminary

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    The Patriarchal Theological Seminary of Halki is located on the Turkish island known as Heyelbiada in the Bosporus straits. It was closed in 1971 by the Turkish government and is the subject of much controversy since it is the only seminary in Turkey and the position of Ecumenical Patriarch can only be filled by a Turkish citizen. Sign the petition to reopen it at

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12 November 2006


Meriç Işıldakoğlu

"The Halki Theological Seminary was, until its closure by the Turkish authorities in 1971, the main school of theology of the Patriarchate of Constantinople."

- This is a wrong word Stavros.

"The seminary was 'closed' by a Turkish law requiring state control of all higher education involved in religious and military training."

- This is partly true. Because, this school, never closed by the Turkish authorities. Closed by the Patriarch. Patriarch didn't want the control of the authorities on the school. Maybe you don't want either. But Patriarch is a part of Turkish Republic not your or any other country's... You have a religious connection, I respect. But you must respect to the Turkish Republic...




The Patriarch refused to allow the school to be under the control of a secular university. As an accredited institution, the seminary which my father graduated from in 1947, had to meet the standards and rules imposed by the Turkish Republic. For example, my father, an Albanian national had to learn to speak fluent Turkish in order to receive a diploma. Many other students from other countries were unable to do so. The seminary had a number of foreign students.

Relinquishing state control of the seminary would threaten the Turkish State's control over Islamic educational institutions. Something that Turkish secularists will not tolerate. Sultan Mehmet reestablished the Patriarchate because he realized it was an important tool for controlling the Ottoman Empire's Christian subjects. That is no longer an issue since most of Turkey's Christian citizens have been eliminated.

In my humble opinion, many Turks believe that the Patriarch is subverting the Republic. In fact, the Patriarch is the spiritual leader of millions of Orthodox Christians all over the world. The sooner Turkey recognizes his ecumenical character the sooner they will be on the road to edging closer to true, not imaginary religious freedom in the country.

Religious freedom in Turkey is tenuous both for Christians and Muslims. I am not sure how the conflict between Kemalists and Islamists will play out. Radical Islam unfortunately, is in the ascendancy, moderate Muslims are responding with a deafening silence. Further restricting the Patriarchate is not going to solve any of your problems, it will only add to them.

I appreciate your reasonable comments regarding a contentious and emotional issue. Needless to say I think it is essential that Turks need to be introspective, question intransigent government policies. No one else can do it for you. It's not about respect, it's about changing the status quo.

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