ASIA/TURKEY - New hypotheses for the reopening of the Halki Theological School, the theological Academy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

Wednesday, 5 June 2024 orthodoxy   ecumenicalism   oriental churches   theology  

Istanbul (Agenzia Fides) - The Turkish government is once again considering the possible reopening of the Halki Theological School, the prestigious Theological Academy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which ceased its activities in 1971 at the behest of the Ankara government.
As reported by Turkish media, in particular the newspaper "Karar", the Turkish Minister of Education Yusuf Tekin has taken up the dossier of a possible reopening of the Halki School and is planning a series of operational and technical meetings on the future use of the complex on the island of Halki.
According to the newspaper Karar, the issue of the possible reopening of the theological School was raised again at the meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 13: On that occasion, Mitsotakis is said to have asked Erdogan to take steps to reopen the theological School. Erdogan himself said in an interview with the Greek daily Kathimerini, published on the eve of his meeting with Mytsotakis: "We are working to reopen the theological School of Halki." The Turkish President added: "We expect the same constructive approach from our neighbor regarding the problems of the Turkish minority in Greece in the field of education."
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has not yet commented on the new rumors being spread by the Turkish media regarding the Halki Theological School.
According to some analysts, this latest statement confirms the impression that the Turkish political leadership is intent on using the possible reopening of Halki as part of the measures that Ankara is demanding from the Athens government in favor of the Turkish minority in Greece.
Already in February 2019, when Erdogan received in Ankara the then Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (see Fides, 7/2/2019), the Turkish leader had expressed his regret for the closure of the theological institute, but also rejected any responsibility of the current Turkish leadership in the matter, saying that "it is not our fault, we were not in government at the time".
He added a personal memory, saying: "When I was in school, the religion teacher sometimes took us there. There are 38,000 books there. 'Can you read them all?' I asked myself...." Even then, the Turkish President had linked the future of the theological school in Halki to the demands from Ankara regarding the Turkish minority in Greece: "When I am asked about Halki," Erdogan had said at the time, "I say: let us also look to Western Thrace so that we can solve the question of the mufti...".

From 1844 until the day the Turkish government decided to close the the School in 1971, the Christian Theological School of Halki trained hundreds of Orthodox bishops and 12 patriarchs, including the current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. In view of the reopening long requested and expected by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, plans have been drawn up to academically modernize the school so that in the future it will be able to guarantee five-year courses with the possibility of obtaining master's degrees recognized also in Europe and the United States. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 5/6/2024)