Patriarch Bartholomaios I hopes for the re-opening of the Seminary of Chalki by 2011 -- 15 Diaspora-Metropolitans of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including Metropolitan Staikos of Austria, have Turkish citizenship.
Constantinople (kath.net/KAP) Bartholomaios I, Greek-Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, sees signs for an improvement of the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey. In an interview with "Kathpress" on Monday afternoon in the Phanar in Istanbul he said, it is very certain, that the Seminary in Chalki will be reopened in 2011. Bartholomew referred to the most recent address of the Turkish Vice Prime minister Bülent Arinc, who had explained in a TV-Interview, that Chalki must be re-opened again, because Christians in Turkey had the right, to educate their own Clergy and Theologians.
Chalki was closed in 1971 by the Turkish Authorities in a train of prohibitions against private Schools. While private Universities were in the mean time, however, allowed for a long time to open, the same did not apply to Chalki. The reopening of the Seminary belongs also to the central requirements by the EU of Turkey in connection with discussions for entry to the EU.
After 40 years it has been pressing on time, to address their own priest shortage by educating them again, said Patriarch Bartholomew I. He is much more optimistic than earlier, that the Turkish Government will finally make the way for reopening free.
As another very positive signal on the side of the Turkish Government the Patriarch cited that the Turkish Government has reinstated the citizenships of 15 Metropolitans of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who are active abroad; among them is also the Metropolitan of Austria, Michael Staikos.
According to a Turkish proposal the Patriarchal Office may only be occupied by one of Turkish citizenship. Not least because they were in any case only 15 more Bishops for the office in question, of whom 11 are already over 70 years old.
Recognition of Ecumenical Dialogue
The Patriarch did not want to directly address the most recent full assembly of the Catholic-Orthodox Dialog commission, which was held in Vienna and took place without substantial progress. He has still not been informed over the particulars of the Dialog. He reinforced, however, the desire of the Orthodox to travel further along the way of Ecumenism, till the full unity of the Church is finally reached.
He also reinforced this assertion with the consideration that the Orthodoxy
was resolved in its own Synod in the Phanar, to take up the dialogue again, following when the 2000 Full Meeting of Baltimore was put on ice.
But not only with the Catholic Church, we also strove for dialogue with the Reformed and Oriental churches, said Bartholomew I.; The same is also valid for relations to Islam and to Judaism. What especially leads to this dialogue, is that it requires a sound education, and therefore, the re-opening of Chalki, maintains the Patriarch.
Positive Signals and Unresolved Problems
As a positive signal, observers also recently noted the willingness of the Turkish authorities that the Orthodox Church henceforth once a year -- on the 15th of August -- may celebrate a church service in the Cloister Church of Sumela south of the Black Sea City of Trabzon. There were 1,500 Christians who came to Sumela for the first Mass in 88 years. Patriarch Bartholomew I. presided. The church was despoiled since the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922 and became thereafter a cultural monument.
The Turkish Minister President Tayyip Erdogan had rejected pressure from nationalist circles critical of the service. Turkey has nothing to lose if a thousand or two thousand Christians were to come and celebrate their Service, Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Turkish media.
A great problem remains still in the unresolved question of the rights of recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. The Turkish authorities recognize neither the title of the Ecumenical Patriarch, nor the responsibility of the Patriarchate for entire Orthodox world. They officially view Bartholomew I. merely as the highest Pastor of the few thousand remaining Greek Orthodox Christians in Turkey.
While in any event the already small number of Greek Orthodox faithful in Turkey is conceived as consistently sinking, around 3,5 Million believers in parts of Greece as well as in the Diaspora in North- and South America, Middle and Western Europe and Australia are directly under the authority of the Patriarchate.
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