The Turkish Government closes the School for political reasons

The crucial and painful blow against the School was dealt by the completely unfair and without a legally binding decision of the Government to include the Theological School of Halki, in 1971, under the law that banned the function of private University Schools, that had only had a history of seven years, while the School was in existence for 127 years. This decision was in direct opposition to article 3 of the Regulation for the function of the School that had been ratified by the Turkish governmental decree in 1951, which clearly defined the School’s status as “higher” and not “highest”: “The School is comprised by a Lyceum Department of three classes and a Special Theological Department of four classes. Graduates of the Theological Department are deemed to have received an education equivalent to a degree granted by a vocational School, which provides one extra year of post-Lyceum education..."16.

The School, accordingly, is referred to as “a higher vocational school" and not a university school, a fact that is also stated on the actual degree of the Theological Department that was ratified by the Turkish Ministry of Education and was issued to the graduates of this department. This degree quotes that the student of the Department has completed the four-year study cycle and been subjected to diploma exams, he has graduated from the School receiving the grade that’s analogous to his performance. Furthermore in a special paragraph on the Degree the following wording appears verbatim: “Pursuant to the Regulation, which was ratified by the Educational Council, by way of its decision no. 15, dated 09.25.1951, the graduates of the Theological Department are considered, as having received a post-lyceum education of one year, equivalent to the education offered by vocational schools.”17.

The School did not receive a university equivalency by the Turkish Ministry of Education by way of the new Regulation of its function in 1951, because such an equivalency was inconsistent with the Turkish constitution, as the officials of the said Ministry had stated to Metropolitan Iakovos of Iconium during the latter’s contacts with them in Ankara. The Turkish constitution allowed the function of state only universities until the 1960’s when it was amended to allow the establishment of private universities. The Theological School of Halki was not at that time officially included in this amendment despite the fact that most Theological Schools of university status outside Turkey, recognized it as such, accepting its graduates for post graduate studies after the submission of the curriculum they had followed for four years.18.

This is shown by the great number of graduates of the School, who, either as scholars of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, desiring eventually to become professors of the School, or scholars of other Church Organizations and Universities, continued their studies and are currently in professorial positions in other university Schools, Orthodox or not, throughout the world.

The principal recognition of the University equivalency of the Theological School of Halki by the Theological School of the University of Athens occurred three years after its reorganization, in February 195419, by way of a letter sent to the Deanery by Amilka Alivizatos, one of the professors of the above school. The writer could not locate this letter in the School’s archives despite all the efforts made, due to the difficulty encountered in terms of its discovery after the compulsory suspension of the function of the School for more than two decades. Therefore, the writer presents its content from the minutes of the meeting of the Association of the Professors on February 10, 1954, during which it was read and the necessary decisions were made on its content.

“Subject 2. A letter was read, written by Mr. Amilka Alivizatos, one of the Professors of the Theological School of the University of Athens on behalf of the Association of the Professors of the said School; it pertains to a letter sent by the Deanery dealing with the transfer of a student from the School to the University School in Athens. The Association of the Professors on the pretext of this transfer issue had the opportunity to discuss the issue of the recognition of the School as equivalent to the University School, which, was agreed in principle. It was suggested, however, that in order for the prestige of the Theological School of the University of Athens to be safeguarded, the Professors of the Theological School of Halki had to be elected hence should hold an Orthodox Doctorate Decree and offer in addition written works testifying to their scientific ability and maturity. To this effect, we are also sending one copy of the organization chart of the Athens University so that in time, using this as your base, you may compile a regulation regarding the doctorate degree and also the election of lecturers and professors. “

The Association of the Professors of the School with much gratification notes the above recognition of the equivalency of the School by the Theological School of the Athens University, thereby fully restoring its prestige in Greece. Accepting also the other recommendations in the above letter, the Association thinks that following the last reorganisation of the School and the completion of the number of Professors, it was time now that the School – complying with the provisions of all University Schools – establish a system thereby appointing professors based on provisions that mandate the submission on the part of candidates of written works showing their maturity and ability. With respect to awarding to graduates the title of the Doctor of Orthodox Theology, the School should introduce a Regulation regarding the award of doctorate Degrees, for the purpose of which there is compiled a Committee comprised by the Professor Emmanuel Fotiadis and Rev. Deacon Chrysostomos Konstantinides and Professor Vasileios Anagnostopoulos, who are assigned the task to study and draw up the as above relevant regulations.”20.

The Regulation drawn up by the above Committee regarding the choice of Faculty for the Theological Department of the School, which was examined individually by all the professors of the above Department and discussed at the meeting of February 8, 1955, in the quorum of the Association of the Professors, was approved and ratified by the same.21.

However, the ensued hardships on the function of the School due to the mentioned unfavourable political developments, by the imposition of many restrictive measures by competent Turkish officials, did not allow the application of the Regulation for the Theological Department of the School due to circumstances that developed during the 1960’s.

Despite these difficulties that the School was facing and the excessive erosion of the number of its students, due to the measure that prohibited the enrolment of students from abroad, during the last seven years before the School was forced to suspend its function, it continued, at all costs, the regular implementation and continuation of the curriculum of the theological studies at an academic level, which it had established since its reorganization and commencement of the new functional period in 1951, as well as the preservation of its university equivalency with other university Theological Schools from abroad.

After twelve years from the in-principle recognition of the equivalency of the School by the Theological School of the University of Athens, in 1954, as has been mentioned before, the University School’s Deanery, responding to a request from the Greek state inspectorate to give their opinion on the said equivalency of the Theological School in Halki, in 1966, it reconfirmed it.

Κανονισμός Ἱερᾶς θεολογικῆς Σχολῆς Χάλκης, Ἴσταμπουλ 1953, σέλ. 5.
The text of the Diploma in the original
The recognition of this School’s equivalency abroad was known to the competent staff of the Ministry of Education in Ankara; this is a known fact as the General Director of Minority Schools mentioned it to the Dean. Metropolitan Maximos of Stavroupolis and the writer, in a meeting with the minister in Ankara, in February 1963, at the decision of the Holy Synod, for the subject of the equivalency of the Ecclesiastical Schools in Greece - mainly the Athonias School - to Public Lyceums in Turkey, and the demand of the said Directorate for their students to present a Diploma of a State Lyceum in order to enroll in the School, to be discussed. Other things were also discussed pertaining to certain restrictions that were imposed and made the educational work and the mission of the School even harder.
The subject of the recognition of the University equivalency of the School was visited at first and discussed in general terms at a joint meeting between the professors of the Theological School of the Athens University and the professors of the Theological Department of the School. Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras presided in the meeting, which took place at the School on April 26, 1952, on the occasion of their visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as its guests.
The people that came on that visit and participated in the as above joint meeting were: K. Moutousis, Dean of Athens University, P. Trembelas, Proctor of the Theological School, G. Sotiriou, Gr. Papamichael, D. Balanos, N. Louaris, V. Vellas, I. Karmiris, K. Bonis, Ger. Konidaris and A. Fytrakis. Ἄφιξις Καθηγητῶν τοῦ Πανεπιστημίου Ἀθηνῶν, Ἀπόστολος Ἀνδρέας, ἔτος Α, 1952, ἀριθ. σελ. 44, Ἱ. Θεολογική Σχολή Χάλκης. Ἡ εἰς τήν Σχολήν ἐπίσκεψις τῆς Α.Θ. Παναγιότητος μετά τῶν κ.κ. Πρυτάνεως καί Καθηγητῶν τοῦ Πανεπιστημίου Ἀθηνῶν, Ἀπόστολος Ἀνδρέας, ἔτος Α, 1952, ἀριθ. σελ. 46.
Κώδιξ Πρακτικῶν Συνεδριῶν Συλλόγου Καθηγητῶν τοῦ Θεολογικοῦ Τμήματος τῆς Σχολῆς, τὀμ. Α' σελ. 32-33.
Ibidem, pg. 47-52.