12/26/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Halki Orthodox Seminary, located on the Turkish island of Heybeliada, has been closed for 50 years. Over the years of operation, 990 graduates walked the halls of the seminary, including two saints, seven patriarchs, seven archbishops and countless more clergy and theologians. One of the youngest remaining alumni of the seminary, Konstantinos Delikostantis, age 73, recalled, “Halki was the iron theological arm of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Halki Seminary was founded in 1844 but has been closed since 1971 when Turkey nationalized all higher education institutions. Its closure marked the last school to train priests in modern-day Turkey. The Greek Orthodox community has faced decades of persecution, now only around 5,000 when previously around two million at the turn of the 20th century.
“We lost two generations of priests and clergy and bishops of the church, who are not educated in the only school that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has in Istanbul,” Archbishop Elpidophoros of America said. Turkey argues that the Patriarchate is the reason for the school’s continued closure, due to their unwillingness to concede to Halki’s administration by state-run faculty of theology.
The future of the church and theological training is now viewed as a political dispute and symbol of antagonism, rather than a matter of education and religious training rights, as said by a former president of the minority community. Those seeking to study now must travel to Greece for the duration of their training, removing them from their community in Turkey.