The permit granted by the Turkish Ministry of Education for the reorganisation of the Theological School of Halki

The subject of the reorganization of the School was revived again during the Patriarchal term of Athenagoras I (1949-1972). The new Patriarch envisioned the Theological School that educated him regain anew its old glory, as a Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, constantly developing and responding to the new demands of the times and the responsibilities and duties of the Mother Church, and the needs of global Orthodoxy. For this reason, since his ascension to the Patriarchal Throne, he took particular interest in the Theological School and all issues pertaining to it. His interest remained unabated and active during the entire length of his long-term as Patriarch, i.e. a quarter of a century.

The favouritism shown towards him and the consent of the Turkish Government for his election to the office of Patriarch, by which they lifted their own rule which was in existence since Turkey declared the Turkish Republic in 1923, which required that hierarchs who were not Turkish citizens be excluded from being candidates or elected to the Patriarchal Throne, gave him, during the first years of his Patriarchal term, the possibility and the chance to exercise his duties and responsibilities and pastoral work with freedom and without restrictions or pressures, unlike his predecessors. It was made easy for him to approach the people in charge and communicate with them and discuss and resolve many and various issues pertaining to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. One of these issues was the reorganization of the Theological School, which he raised as an issue of immediate priority taking steps toward the Turkish Government in order that a final resolution be reached, based on previous requests made to the Ministry of Education and the positive outcomes to which they concluded in August 1947. The outcome of these new actions of the Church, at the initiative of the new Ecumenical Patriarch, was a favourable and speedy response from the Government. The Ministry of Education sent a letter to the School which announced that:

  • the first four-class department of the School was elevated to lyceum and was to be recognized as equivalent to the other minority lyceums in Constantinople and
  • a new class was to be added to the Theological Department of the School.

This new reality required the immediate mobilisation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the draft of the new Regulation for the function of the reorganised School, which was assigned to one of the School’s professors Mr. Emmanuel Fotiadis, the School’s Dean during the academic year 1950-1951, because Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Neocesarea held no longer this office. This Regulation, following its approval by the Board of the School and the Holy Synod, was submitted to the Turkish Ministry of Education for examination and ratification.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate took the initiative, and sent to Ankara on September 2, 1951, Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium, Vicar of the Grand Chancellery, whom the Holy Synod elected Dean of the School for the new academic year, at the recommendation of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. It was decided that he goes on the trip to accomplish the acceleration of the necessary procedures regarding the Regulation that were undertaken by the competent bodies of the Turkish Ministry of Education, so that it is approved in the shortest time possible and is ready for implementation at the beginning of the upcoming academic year 1951-1952.

The contacts and communications of Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium in Ankara with the Minister of Education and other competent officials of the Turkish Supreme Educational Council of the said Ministry, and the successful results to which the discussions concluded regarding the subject of the reorganisation of the School and the adjustment of the articles of the new Regulation of function, are recorded in his report to the Ecumenical Patriarch, which he submitted after the completion of his assignment and return from Ankara.

The importance of the content of this report, which includes detailed description of the last and decisive stage of the discussions between the Ecumenical Patriarchate representative, Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium, and the Turkish Minister and Deputy Minister of Education and other competent officers of the said Ministry with respect to the upgrade of the School and the official recognition of her academic status, as well as the exposure of the good relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Turkish State and the benevolent disposition of the latter toward the institution and other issues during that time period, has deemed it necessary to offer the verbatim quote of the text of this report, a copy of which is found in the file of the late venerable Hierarch:

«Your All Holiness,
In accordance with the mandate given to me by the Synod, I went to Ankara and communicated with the competent offices in the Ministry of National Education for the acceleration of the approval process for the new Regulation of the Theological School that has been submitted some time ago, and the handling of other relevant issues regarding the function of the School, I respectfully submit the following concerning my contacts in Ankara and the respective accomplished results.

During my five-day stay in Ankara, I first met with His Excellency the Minister of Education Mr Tevfik Ileri. I handed him the letter of Your All Holiness and expanded verbally on the issues faced by our School, namely:

a. The issue of the approval of the new School Regulation, emphasizing the imperative need for the speediest approval, so that in the following academic year the function of the School will be based thereon.

b. The issue of the final approval of my appointment as Dean of the School, in view of the fact that the local Directorate of Education has since four months ago approved my appointment as Dean, while the final approval of the Ministry has been delayed.

c. The issue of the establishment of a special series of Turkish language lessons for the students from abroad and foreign nationals, along with a lengthy analysis of the reasons explaining this course of action

His Excellency the Minister expressed how much he was moved by your venerable Patriarchal letter and asked me to convey to Your All Holiness his thanksgiving for Your sentiments and wishes and then he stressed that since all the above issues were Your All Holiness’ desire, he would give the necessary instructions so that they are to be taken care in the shortest time period. For it was the Government’s desire as well as his own, to support the work of the Patriarch and strengthen the programme that was valuable to the country. He immediately called to his office the Director of Minority Schools Mr. Faik Binal from which he requested relevant information thus attending to the examination of our issues at once.

Afterwards, the Minister called the President of the Highest Educational Council to whom he recommended that the Board proceed immediately with the examination of the submitted Regulation so that this may be applied to the School from the beginning of the following school year.

The Minister announced to me that the issue of my appointment were to be considered finalised and upon the approval of the Regulation, within a few days, the final ratification of my appointment at the School were to take place.

Afterwards, the Minister recommended that I see him again and inform him on the development of all our issues after I communicated with the competent offices. I thanked him for his keen interest in the School, and left.

The following day, Mr. Halil Zia, Vice-President of the Higher Educational Council, who wanted to receive some information on the new School Regulation, called me. I visited him in his office where we held a two and a half hour discussion that revolved around the requested information.  This information pertained mostly to the objective of the School, the reasons that led us to request the elevation of its first department to lyceum, the practices we used in accepting foreign students, the arrangements of the military obligations of students entering the Theological Department, and other issues related to the general function of the School. The information given to the Vice-President pleased him fully.

After the completion of the discussion with the Vice-President, he stated to me that our discussion pertained to the Regulation in general and the new character that the School wanted to assume; the examination of each article was to be carried out by the Chief Secretary of the Educational Council who was assigned the task to … re-draft and adjust the Regulation as per the internal formulation and form of the officially approved relevant diagrams of the Ministry.

The collaboration with the said Chief Secretary in the presence of the Director of Minority Schools went on for three days starting at 9:00 am and ending at 1:00 pm. During this time, the Regulation and the curriculum were examined per article and analytical information was given on each article… With respect to what came about in these meetings, most of the amendments made to the Regulation pertained not to the substance but the internal form, namely the structure of the entire Regulation, the division and classification of the articles.

Both the Chief Secretary and the Director of Minority Schools stated that the articles of the Regulation should refer only to the Theological Department and that there could not be any point made on official documents indicating that the lyceum was preparative to the Theological Department, because otherwise the Theological Department would be considered a University School, a type of institution that could only be established by the Turkish State.

During this collaboration, it was an accomplishment to have a special article added to the Regulation specifying that the Dean of the School be appointed and terminated by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The subject of the establishment of a series of Turkish language lessons for foreign students was also visited with the Chief Secretary and the Director of Minority Schools… After discussion, they accepted that such a series of lessons could be established solely for the Theological Department, not for the lyceum, the graduates of which, regardless of nationality, should receive a diploma of a Turkish lyceum…

Based on the exchange as described above and the offered relevant clarifications, the Chief Secretary, as he was instructed … would adjust the Regulation to the official diagrams of the Ministry, in order to submit such … to the Higher Educational Council for the final and definitive ratification, not excluding the possibility that the Higher Board could suggest further changes.

The President of the Educational Council and I informed the Deputy Minister on all the above, in the absence of the Minister; the Deputy Minister undertook the responsibility to inform the Minister upon his return, and promised that he would also see to it that the ratification of the Regulation happened quickly, which we could put to use beginning with the upcoming School year, once its ratified version was transmitted through the Prefecture here, and if, of course, there were no objections on our end.

Thus, upon the completion of my mission in Ankara, I thanked and greeted everybody and returned back here on Friday, the 7th day of this month.

Submitting the above, I remain with deepest respect.
Patriarchate, September 12, 1951
Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium
Vicar of the Great Chancellery6.

Twenty days after the official contacts and discussions of Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium in Ankara, the Regulation of the School that was adjusted as of its internal formulation and form to the approved diagrams of the Turkish Ministry of Education, and including essentially all the requests made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in their entirety for the upgrade of the function of the School, was ratified by the Higher Educational Council of the Ministry of National Education on September 25, 1951, and forwarded to the Schools Directorate to be implemented starting with the new academic year, 1951-19527.

On October 5, 1951, the Regulation was examined and discussed at the meeting of the Holy Synod, and approved and ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras8.

Archives of the late Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium, Scholarch of the Holy Theological School of Halki (1951-1955).
Κανονισμός Ἱερᾶς Θεολογικῆς Σχολῆς Χάλκης, Istanbul 1953, pg. 3
Ibidem pg. 2.