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Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis' statement at the meeting of Parliamentary Committees regarding the Theological School of Halki

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dear Colleagues,

We are today in the pleasant position of holding a joint meeting of the Committee on the Parliament's Library, the Standing Committee on Educational Affairs and the Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad, on the subject of cooperation between the Libraries of the Hellenic Parliament and the Theological School of Halki. A pleasure for all of us, because this is an endeavour that, following various debates and consultations, is starting to be actualised.

The Theological School of Halki, since its founding in 1844, on the island of Halki, by Patriarch Germanos IV, has played a substantial role in the development and dissemination of the ecumenical message of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
It was always enlightening and timeless, as well as timely, responding to the challenges and spiritual questions that arise from time to time. The Halki Seminary nurtured the most eminent figures of the Orthodox Church – including His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew – as well as dozens of distinguished hierarchs and academics in Greece and abroad.

In the spirit of the ancient ecclesiastical and theological schools of Alexandria, of Antioch and of Constantinople, it attracted large numbers of students from all over the world, acting as a true beacon of peace, optimism and serenity.

In this spiritual, educational and social work, the Halki Seminary could not but depend on the drawing of spiritual resources from the materials of its library, which, in turn, is an ark of the wisdom of hierarchs, theologians, scholars, historians – ancient or modern – that has been offered for the benefit of students and the ecumenical community. It should be noted that the Seminary's Library pre-dated the Seminary itself by centuries, enriching its materials all the while, as Patriarch Mitrophanes III conceived of it in the mid-16th century and breathed life into its activities.

Given the huge volume of tomes and books that has accrued through the centuries of the library's operation, modern requirements pointed up the need to gather and catalogue the initially scattered materials.

Materials that came from various sources, mainly donations from private collections, and that, having been brought together, confirms that the Seminary Library is one of the richest in the world, with rare books and incunabula.
More specifically, at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, in Halki, where the materials in question are stored, some 90,000 volumes -- mainly books from the 18th and 19th centuries, incunabula from the 16th century -- have been registered and digitised, along with over 900 titles of Greek and foreign-language periodicals. This wealth concerns not only matters of ecclesiastical history and theology, but also works of philosophy, law, rhetoric, archaeology, geography, music and literature.

So you can see that this is an extremely important project, which was brought off successfully by His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa, with the invaluable assistance of personnel from the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, scientific personnel from the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece and the University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, and individual volunteers, university students and even partner agencies the names of which are already known, and which deserve our warm thanks.

Recognising the importance of this wealth, eminent personnel of the Library of Parliament, headed by Director Elli Droulia, were already visiting the Ecumenical Patriarchate years ago and meeting with representatives of the Seminary Library, within the framework of the regular transfer of know-how and personnel training carried out between the two sides, leading to today's happy result of the collaboration that began in 2014.

The successful cataloguing and digitizing of the Halki Library is an important first step towards the institution's meeting the demands of the era and becoming a modern global research centre, as the space where the heart of the ecumenical Orthodox community beats should be. At the same time, it opens the way for further cooperation and creative initiatives.

It is through this prism that we should see the constructive dialogue with the Library of the Hellenic Parliament and other organizations in Greece, as well as the cooperation proposed by foundations in other countries, such as the State Library (Staatsbibliothek) of Germany, in this case regarding the work required for the preservation of ecclesiastical books and documents.

Finally, we should not overlook the lively interest shown by researchers from all of the world who visit the Library, given that it is open to the public. And, naturally, the interest expressed by people on the pages of social and tourism networks.

So it is clear that, through the dialogue we are attempting today and the cooperation we offer to the Library of the Theological School of Halki, we are creating an opening for global reach and the production of culture -- inherent elements of the Seminary that seek recipients.

We hope that, soon, Turkey, as one such recipient -- essentially as the main recipient of the Seminary's churches and its Library in terms of global reach and production of culture -- will lend a sympathetic ear to its deacons, finally allowing its vital and long-awaited normal operation.
Thank you.