Americans call for reopening of Orthodox seminary in Turkey

Posted: Friday, September 08, 2000

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- Visiting Greek-Americans called for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki as they gathered in the empty halls of the Eastern Orthodox island campus, shut by Turkish authorities 29 years ago.

The visitors, who expressed sorrow and outrage, were members of Archons of America, a group that supports the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate.

''It is our prayer, hope, dream that this sacred school will reopen,'' said Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, Pa., a Halki graduate. He said the future of the patriarchate depends on the reopening.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox worldwide, has long lobbied for Halki's reopening.

''Turkey will never become a full-fledged member of the European Union if, for example, they don't open this school,'' said James Costaras of New York. Turkey became a candidate to join the union last year but EU officials have expressed concern about its human rights record.

''The United States very strongly believes that this seminary should be reopened,'' said Frank Urbancic, U.S. consul general in Istanbul. ''It is not an issue we are prepared to drop.''

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