Theological School of Halki

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The Holy Theological School of Halki

The Holy Theological School of Halki (also Chalki) was, until its closure by the Turkish authorities in 1971, the main school of theology and primary seminary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is located on Halki (in Turkish, Heybeliada), one of the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara.

Contents

History

The Orthodox Church's activities on the island of Halki are traced back to the Byzantine period when the Monastery of the Holy Trinity was founded on the island. A date for the founding of the monastery is not known although the establishment of the monastery has been associated with Photius I, Patriarch of Constantinople (r. 858–861 and 878–886). Subsequently the monastery fell into ruin during the Turkish period.

The school of theology was established on the grounds of the old monastery after Patriarch Germanos IV visited the island in 1842. Then, with the approval of the Turkish authorities, the operation of Holy Trinity monastery and the school of theology began operation on October 1, 1844 with a special ceremony that marked the occasion.

An earthquake in June 1894 destroyed all the buildings of the monastery and theological school except for the chapel. This stopped operation of the school. The present day facilities, however, were built, with financing by Pavlos Skilitsis Stefanovick, by architect Periklis Fotiadis and operation of the school and monastery was re-inaugurated in October 1896. Major renovation of the facilities also took place in the 1950s, including the monastery church.

The Holy Theological School of Halki was established to meet the educational needs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as well as of the Orthodox Church in general. Since its establishment in 1844, the school has passed through a number of organizations. Initially, between 1844 and 1899 the school operated with four high school grades and three theological grades. During the period of 1899 and 1923 the high school grades were discontinued and the school functioned as an Academy of five grades. Between 1923 and 1951 the school reactivated the high school grades as originally established in 1844. In 1951 the educational program was again modified to consisted of three high school grades and four theological grades. This arrangement continued until 1971 when the school was closed after passage of a law that prohibited operation of privately owned schools of higher education in Turkey. It has remained close since although the facilities have been visited and used by Orthodox friends and faithful.

Legacy

The theological facilities include the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, sports and recreational institutions, dormitories, an infirmary, a hospice, offices, and the school's library with its historic collection of books, journals, and manuscripts. The students at Halki included not only a large number of native born Greeks, but Orthodox Christians from around the world, which gave the school an international character.

Numerous Orthodox scholars, theologians, priests, bishops, and patriarchs graduated from Halki, including the current Patriarch Bartholomew I and his immediate predecessors, Patriarchs Demetrius, Athenagoras, and Maximus V. Many patriarchs, bishops, and former teachers of the school are buried on the grounds.

Future

In 1971, the seminary was closed by a Turkish law that forbids private universities from functioning in Turkey. In 1998, the Turkish government ordered the disbandment of the Halki board of trustees, until international criticism of Ankara's decision persuaded the Turkish authorities to reverse their order.

Halki has received international attention in recent years. In October 1998, both houses of the United States Congress passed resolutions that supported the reopening of Halki. The American President Bill Clinton visited Halki during his visit to Turkey in 1999 and urged Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to allow reopening of the school. The European Union has also raised the issue as part of its negotiations over Turkish accession to the EU.

The Patriarchate had hoped that promises from the Turkish government to allow the seminary to reopen would be enacted, this has not come to pass as of today.

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