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The Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary
The Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary was founded in 1844 to provide training for new priests who would cover the religious and spiritual needs of the Ecumenical See and Orthodox Christians around the world.
Up until 1971, the Halki Seminary came directly under the auspices of the Turkish Ministry for National Education, and its status was governed by the Statute of the Halki Seminary, approved on 25 September 1951 by a decision of the Supreme Education Council of the Turkish Ministry of National Education. It was approved and ratified by the Holy Synod on 5 October 1951. It entered into operation on 3 October 1953, but the Turkish authorities closed it down in 1971, on the pretext of abolishing private religious higher education. The term used in its own rules of procedure, however, is vocational school, providing post-secondary vocational education of a minimum one-year duration.
The issue of the re-opening of the Halki Seminary
The Patriarchate’s firm demand is that the Halki Seminary be re-opened under its pre-1971 status. This demand has been put forward officially on many occasions.
The Patriarchate wants it to provide training to all Orthodox Christians, irrespective of nationality. It also wants foreign teachers to be given the opportunity to teach there, as was the case in the past. The Seminary would thus maintain its autonomy and avoid secularization, which goes against the seminary’s true nature as a theological school preparing candidates for priesthood.
Re-opening the Halki Seminary is in essence a fundamental obligation of Turkey to its own citizens, given that Turkey has clearly been violating its citizens’ religious rights since forcing the school’s closure almost four decades ago, in clear infringement of a church’s right to train its own clergy, which is a violation of the Lausanne Treaty, the European Convention of Human Rights and other international texts on human and minority rights, which are binding for Turkey. The issue of the Halki Seminary is an important element of the reforms that Turkey must implement in order to improve its human rights record within the framework of its European perspective, as pointed out in all of the European Commission’s texts (e.g., Annual Progress Reports). It is expected to continue to be among the European Union’s concerns within the framework of the accession negotiation process.
Despite international calls for the re-opening of the Halki Seminary, Turkey does not appear to have proceeded to specific steps to this end, though it says it has been looking into the relevant procedural matters.