Orthodox Christian News Service, Inc.
The Case for Halki
By Theodore G. Karakostas
March 17, 2002 -- Can anyone imagine the day when the Pope would be forced to leave Rome because there were no more Priests left to serve the Vatican? No one can imagine it because America and Europe would never have allowed the Church of Rome to succumb to such a state. But for the Church of Constantinople, such a scenario does exist and America, Europe, NATO, CNN, and the worldwide news media have done nothing to reverse the collapse of one of Christendom's oldest institutions.
The problem facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate today began not with the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, but with the refusal of the western powers to let the Greeks have Constantinople in 1922-23. America, Britain, and France will defend themselves by stating that they pressed the Turks not to expel the Patriarchate during the Lausanne negotiations in 1923. The fact is that the western powers left Orthodoxy's most significant spiritual institution to fade away over a period of time.
In the Orthodox world today, there are numerous problems. Serbia is in ruins following the wars unleashed by NATO. Cyprus is under Turkish occupation. Orthodoxy is still seeking to make inroads in America. The question is asked why a movement to reopen the theological school of Halki should be supported.
The movement to reopen the theological school of Halki should be supported for the following reasons. The closure of Halki is a clear case of ethnic and religious discrimination. Halki is a symbol of human rights and religious freedom. Turkey should not be allowed to benefit from repressive policies it imposed in the past and which have led to what is in fact, a blockade on the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
If another religious institution- the Papacy, a Synagogue, a Mosque, was undergoing a similar crisis, there would be outrage. The Patriarchate is a religious and historical treasure. It is an institution that has functioned without interruption since the Church of Byzantium was elevated to the status of a Patriarchate at the second ecumenical council of Constantinople in 381 AD.
During the 1930's, the Nazis burned books and declared war on culture. One year ago, the Taliban in Afghanistan destroyed ancient Buddhist statues. The closure of Halki is the result of illiberal policies aimed at destroying the Patriarchate which is a living remnant of Byzantine culture and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The Patriarchate's removal from Constantinople would be another destructive blow against a cultural treasure.
On Easter Sunday 1821, one month after the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, Patriarch Gregory V was hanged by the Turks. As the Greek Independence Day anniversary approaches, Hellenes and Orthodox Christians have the oppurtunity to help the cause of human rights for Greek Orthodoxy's oldest ecclesiastical center in Turkey. This can be done by signing the online petition sponsored by the Hellenic Electronic Center at http://www.greece.org/themis/halki/ or by organizing a paper petition at your communinity/church /association as per http://www.greece.org/themis/halki2/associations.html
Editor's Note: Theodore G. Karakostas is Associate Editor of the American Hellenic Media Project and a frequent contributor to Orthodox News.