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Ecumenical Patriarchate asks for a constitutional change

According to the newspaper “Today’s Zaman”, Ecumenical Patriarchate spokesperson Father Dositheos Anagnostopoulos has said that there are constitutional obstacles in the way of reopening the Heybeliada, or Hakli, Seminary for training Orthodox priests. He noted that opening the school with the current Constitution could further complicate the matter.

Speaking to journalists at a meeting organized by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform (KADİP) in Heybeliada, Father Dositheos said there were other factors contributing to keeping the seminary closed, but noted that the 1982 Constitution was the primary factor. He said if the current constitutional provisions stay in place, the opposition might appeal a decision to reopen the school in the Constitutional Court, which may prevent the school from opening. He said such a development would make the issue even more complicated, adding that a full consensus should be reached before the school is opened. He noted that the Patriarchate has not applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the issue, adding that a visit from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Patriarchate officials has renewed their hope for the future course of the seminary. “We will be obliged to go to the ECHR if we are disappointed again this time,” he said.

Father Dositheos also said the Constitution should be changed to allow for the opening of private higher education institutions that offer religious academic content, something banned by the current Constitution. He also noted that there are many other motivations to change the Constitution. He said: “We think the state should stay out of religion and religion should stay out of politics. If we believe in this secular principle 100 percent, then it is not possible to not allow Christians, Muslims or anybody else [to open] a private educational institution.”

Ankara is under EU pressure to reopen the Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada near İstanbul, which was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control.

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