Wednesday, November 24, 2010
U.S. Helsinki Commission: re-open Halki “without condition or further delay”.
The Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) called upon the government of Turkey to facilitate the re-opening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Theological School of Halki. He wants this re-opening to happen: “without condition or further delay”.
In his speech addressed to the U.S. Congress on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the forced closure of the institution by the Turkish authorities, he renewed his call for the government of Turkey to allow the seminary to re-open.
Senator Cardin specifically referred to some positive developments which took place this year. For example, the permission for a liturgical celebration at the historic Sumela monastery for the first time since 1922. He also mentioned the Turkish court order for the Buyukada Orphanage to be returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, stating that: “if the transfer of the property occurs, this would be another welcome development, potentially paving the way for the return of scores of other church properties seized by the government”.
The U.S. Helsinki Commission has consistently raised the issue of the Theological School for over a decade. It will continue to closely monitor related developments, stated Mr. Cardin. He stressed that this year’s State Department report on religious freedoms serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by Orthodox and other minority religious communities in Turkey.
“I urge the Turkish Prime Minister to ensure respect for the rights of individuals from these groups to freely profess and practice their religion or beliefs in keeping with Turkey’s obligations as an OSCE participating state”, stated Senator Cardin. He added: “The 1989 OSCE Vienna Concluding Document affirmed the right of religious communities to provide training of religious personnel in appropriate institutions. The Theological School of Halki served that function for over a century until its forced closure nearly four decades ago. The time has come to allow the reopening of this unique institution without further delay.”