His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, expressed intense concern over the recent decision of the government of Turkey, through the Turkish General Authority of Public Institutions, to dismiss the Board of Trustees of the Theological School of Halki.
The Turkish governments decision was especially shocking to Orthodox Christians in the United States where, shortly before announcement of the dismissal was made, the US House and Senate had passed legislation recognizing the integrity and freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Legislators also called for the reopening of the theological school, which Turkish officials closed in the 1970s. The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 21, 1998.
In a letter dated November 17, 1998 to His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW I on Constantinople, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS expressed “deep dismay… at the recent decision of the Turkish General Authority of Public Institutions to dismiss the Board of Trustees of the Theological School of Halki.”
In a separate letter to the Honorable Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, Metropolitan Theodosius stated that the schools closing “not only disappoints Orthodox Christians in the United States and around the world who have been looking forward with anticipation to the reopening of the school, but also is most unfortunate in that it follows so closely the enactment of a law stating the sense of Congress that the school should be reopened. This is a serious matter that should be of concern to all Americans and, indeed, to all people of good will.
“The Orthodox Church in America knows of the deep concern of the United States government and of you yourself, Madam Secretary, regarding the issue of religious freedom, and we are grateful for that concern,” Metropolitan Theodosius continued. “Given this concern, we sincerely hope that you will bring to the attention of appropriate officials of the government of Turkey this important matter and the concerns that this recent action raises in so many people.”
Copies of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS letter were sent to the Honorable Marc Grossman, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs and immediate past US Ambassador to Turkey and to the Honorable Mark Parris, current US Ambassador to Turkey.
Attached to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS letters was a separate statement on the matter, the full text of which follows:
“In recent times, the Orthodox world has looked forward to the much anticipated reopening of the celebrated Theological School of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the island of Halki. The Theological School of Halki, like Holy Mount Athos, is not merely of importance to Orthodox Christians of Greek ethnicity, but is an institution of international importance, significant to all Orthodox Christians.
“The hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America, together with all Orthodox Christians, stand in solidarity with His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in calling for the reversal of the recent dismissal of the members of the Board of Trustees of the Theological School of Halki by the Turkish General Authority of Public Institutions. We also join with all people of good will around the world who call upon the Government of Turkey to recognize the Patriarchate of Constantinople in its nonpolitical, religious mission, and to give a sign of the Governments good will by authorizing the reopening of the Theological School of Halki.
“The hierarchs, clergy, monastics and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America join those who pray for all civil authorities, asking that they may be granted peaceful times so that we, in their tranquility, may lead a calm and peaceful life in godliness and sanctity.”