Metropolitan: Who holds Halki’s key?

Metropolitan: Who holds Halki’s key?

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Metropolitan: Who holds Halki’s key

Lambriniadis is seen in front of an Atatürk bust in the seminary’s garden. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Despite the government’s determination to reopen Heybeliada Island’s Halki Seminary, which has remained closed for more than 40 years, no concrete improvement has been achieved on the issue, the school’s archpriest and Metropolitan of Bursa, Professor Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, has said.

“Everyone tells each other that the school should be opened, but who holds the key [keeping it from being] opened? We have seen the determination of the government but no steps are taken,” he told the Daily News in a recent interview. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said in March during a Berlin event that the seminary should be reopened to educate clerics for the Orthodox community, saying “minorities have the same rights as us.”

Still, he criticized the Greek government for not allocating the same rights to the Turkish community living in Greece.

With the Lausanne Treaty signed in 1923, Turkey and Greece were bound to treat their respective minorities with reciprocal rights, meaning that every implementation regarding the Greek population in Turkey and the Turks in Western Thrace should correspond to each other.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered Ankara’s help in building a mosque in Athens after meeting with his Greek counterpart, Antonis Samaras, in Doha on Jan. 29.

During the Doha talks with Samaras, Erdoğan discussed the issues of restrictions on Turks and Muslims living in Western Thrace, including freedom of worship, the establishment of associations, the right to own property and the appointment of 240 religious teachers for the community, according to Anatolia news agency.

Turkish Parliamentary Speaker Hüseyin Çelik said in 2003, when he was the education minister, that the school could be opened without requiring a change in law. Last year, Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew said they would go to the European Court of Human Rights if the school was not reopened.

“Our Patriarch favors solving the problem through dialogue in Turkey. But if we don’t have another alternative, we will have to take legal action,” Lambriniadis said when asked if they were planning to take such steps.

“Our Patriarch has been on duty for 22 years and he is always bringing the Halki Seminary issue to the agenda. The school has been closed for 42 years. If it is reopened, even priests from Greece will come here to get an education. It is not a thing to be underestimated,” he told the Daily News.

“When the reopening of Halki Seminary is brought to the agenda, the government implicitly or explicitly puts forward the issue of reciprocity. They even relate the new problems regarding the minorities in Greece to Halki Seminary; it is not understandable,” he said.

Renovation needed

Lambriniadis also said he was currently giving lectures in the University of Thessaloniki since he cannot teach in Halki Seminary. Last week, 75 priests from the Athens Archbishopric visited Heybeliada for a three-day seminar. Lambriniadis said they did not come across any problems regarding the seminar. He said the University of Thessaloniki completed its project regarding the restoration of the school and that they would restore the building once they could receive the authorizations and find a fund.