Hopes on reopening of Halki shattered

Hopes on reopening of Halki shattered

Hopes on reopening of Halki shattered

Mor Gabriel Monastery land will be returned to Syriac community. DHA photo

The Halki Seminary’s abbot has said the exclusion of the reopening of the Halki Seminary from the democratization package, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced yesterday, had come as a great disappointment to them.

Professor Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, abbot of the Aya Triada Monastery within the Halki Seminary and Metropolitan of Bursa, told the Hürriyet Daily News that they were saddened by the fact that the provisions for the reopening of the school were not present in the package.

 “We are deeply saddened today because the issue of the re-opening of the Theological School of Halki was excluded from the ‘democratization package.’ Our disappointment is great. We at the [Fener Greek Orthodox] Patriarchate had high hopes that it was going to happen this time. We did not expect this from our Government. We will continue to believe that the re-opening of our school is necessary, and we will not cease pursuing this,” said Lambriniadis.

The abbot added that they entreated Prime Minister Erdoğan to go down the right path to end the humanitarian and religious breaches of human rights that his own citizens were subject to.

The reopening of the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary on Istanbul’s Heyebeliada Island has been an ongoing point of debate for years. It has been postponed due to a lack of clarity over its status, as well as the principle of reciprocity with Greece, which has refused to allow Turkish minorities to elect their own religious officials.

On Sept. 12, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said that they would take the necessary steps for the reopening of the Halki Seminary “when certain local and international conditions are constituted.” He also gave signals of solving the Mor Gabriel Monastery issue in the same speech. “We have to apply the law on the matter but an alternative formula could resolve the problem [of Mor Gabriel monastery],” Arınç said.

While Erdoğan did not mention anything about the Halki Seminary during the announcement of the long-anticipated democratization package on Sept. 30, he disclosed the returning of the land of the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery to the Syriac community in Turkey.

“The land of the Mor Gabriel Monastery will return to the monastery’s foundation,” Erdoğan promised today, while also declaring a wide range of reforms on democracy.

“In fact, our government has shown a great sensitivity in this issue throughout the [Turkish] Republic’s history and has made serious efforts in return for such rights. We have taken sincere steps with regulations we made about the removal of such injustices in 2003, 2008 and 2011 and we received concrete results. We have returned more than 250 [properties], costing more around 2.5 billion Turkish Liras to the original owners,” said Erdoğan. Erdoğan also said that they would continue to return the properties of minorities without occasioning the suffering of others.

Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old monastery located in Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarlı and Eğlence sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The court recognized the monastery as an “occupier,” after which the case was brought to the ECHR.

Meanwhile Sait Susin, the president of the Meryem Ana Church Foundation in Istanbul, said they welcomed the return of the lands belonging to the Mor Gabriel Monastery with great pleasure.

Kuryakos Ergün, head of the Mor Gabriel Foundation, said they were happy about the development but that there were still questions to be answered.

“What kind of a solution is going to be offered? We will not accept it if the ownership is not given to us but only the right of usage is awarded,” said Ergün, adding that they would withdraw the case from the ECHR if the returning process were to be unproblematic.