Monday, September 5, 2011

Progress in Turkey

There has been some recent, encouraging news to come out of Turkey:

The Turkish government said it would return hundreds of properties that were confiscated from religious minorities by the state or other parties over the years since 1936, and would pay compensation for properties that were seized and later sold...Many of the properties, including schools, hospitals, orphanages and cemeteries, were seized after 1936 when trusts were called to list their assets, and in 1974 a separate ruling banned the groups from purchasing any new real estate.

There are still significant strides to be made, including (perhaps most significant of all) the re-opening of the Halki Seminary which is necessary for the continuation of Christianity in its historic homeland. An opinion article in the Egyptian Gazette explains why:

The problem, felt acutely as a source of deep pain by both the Patriarch and by Greek Orthodox Christians throughout the world, is that their seminary, where their students for the priesthood are trained, has been closed since 1971, under a law prohibiting private institutions of higher education and designed to bring universities under state control.

Turkish Law, though, requires that Orthodox priests in Turkey be Turkish. Put very bluntly, without Turks being able to train as priests, the Church in Turkey cannot function and its future is grim.

Situated one hour by boat from Istanbul on Heybeliada, one of the Princes islands, the Halki Seminary was founded in 1844, on a Christian site founded one thousand years earlier. It is a place of great importance for the Greek Orthodox Church throughout the world, since many of its greatest leaders, including Bartholomew himself, were themselves trained there.

Throwing reasonableness to the wind, it might also be nice if the Turks returned properties that were seized prior to 1936. (After all, some of the most important Christian holy sites were confiscated long before then.) But that is probably wishful thinking.

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