US Senate resolution calls on Turkey to reopen Greek Orthodox Seminary


A resolution introduced to the US Senate on Tuesday calls upon the Turkish government to facilitate the reopening of the Greek Orthodox Halki (or Heybeliada) seminary without further delay and to address other long-standing concerns regarding the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Benjamin Cardin, a US senator from Maryland from the Democratic Party who is also on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the US Helsinki Commission, introduced Senate Resolution 196.

The resolution indicated that the Senate welcomed the historic meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Patriarch Bartholomew I in August 2009 and applauds “positive gestures” by the Turkish government, including allowing the liturgical celebration by the patriarch at the historic Sümela Monastery and the return of the former Greek orphanage on the island of Büyükada to the patriarchate.

Cardin told the Senate on Tuesday: “I was privileged to again meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, during his 2009 visit to the United States. His impassioned request to those of us gathered was for our support for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, forcibly closed by the Turkish authorities in 1971. In this year marking the 40th anniversary of that tragic action, I urge the Turkish leadership to reverse this injustice and allow this unique religious institution to reopen.”

Signed by the Democrats’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and senators Robert Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen, Olympia Snowe and Sheldon Whitehouse, in addition to Cardin, the Senate resolution was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.