The US has called on Turkey to re-open the Greek Orthodox Theological School of Halki on the occasion of the 50th anniversary since its closure, after a 1971 Turkish law banned private higher education institutions.
Specifically, on Thursday US State Department spokesperson Ned Price urged the government of Turkey to reopen the Halki Seminary and allow it to train Orthodox clergy, in a statement posted on Twitter
“Fifty years ago Turkey’s nationalisation of higher education caused the Halki Seminary to close,” Price said. “We continue to urge the government of Turkey to respect the universal human right of religious freedom and allow Halki Seminary to freely train Orthodox clergy.”
A State Department statement was attached to the tweet, saying the following (full post):
“Today marks 50 years since the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that all institutions of higher education must either nationalize or close, resulting in the closure of the Theological School of Halki, a seminary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Halki Seminary had operated for 127 years, and its closing deprived the Ecumenical Patriarchate of a training school for Orthodox clergy in Turkey, its home for 1,690 years. Since Halki’s closure, those wishing to become Orthodox clergy have been forced to go abroad for their training.
“The United States continues to urge the Turkish government to respect the right to freedom of religion or belief as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary. Moreover, we call upon the government of Turkey to allow all religious groups to again train their clergy within the country.”
The Halki seminary, was founded on 1 October 1844 on the island of Halki, the second-largest of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara. It was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until its closure by the Turkish government.