Turkey says its offers to re-open seminary rejected by patriarchate

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Turkey says its offers to re-open seminary rejected by  patriarchate
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Nisan 09, 2009 11:01

ISTANBUL - Turkey says it has looked for various formulas in the Constitution to re-open the Heybeliada Seminary in Istanbul, but the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has been unwilling to compromise, according to reports on Thursday.

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The Turkish state closed Heybeliada Seminary, the seat of Greek Orthodox patriarchate, in 1971 in a wider crackdown against religious education that also curtailed Muslim schools. Islamic theology faculties are now run by state universities.  

The issue came under the spotlight again when U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech to the Turkish Parliament on Monday that any steps to improve religious freedoms and minority rights – like reopening the Heybeliada Seminary, Halki in Greek – would send an important signal inside Turkey and beyond.

Turkish officials, however, told Obama that they have been working on some formulas regarding the issue but that the patriarchate had rejected their offers to re-open the seminary, Hurriyet reported.

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"We are working on various methods. But it is a must that the patriarchate should also help efforts reach a compromise in the Turkish legal system," the officials said. 

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew expressed optimism about re-opening the seminary after meeting Obama in Istanbul on Tuesday .

Turkish State Minister Said Yazicioglu also said Wednesday that the patriarchate rejected Turkey's offer to open the seminary under the Faculty of Theology at Istanbul University.

"The Turkish Constitution does not allow private institutions to give religious education. … The problem is there. It requires efforts. I believe a formula will be found in the end," he told Milliyet daily.

The European Union has urged Turkey to open the seminary, located on an island off the coast of Istanbul, to meet its political criteria for membership.


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