The importance of the Fourth Period of the School for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Orthodoxy at large

The fourth period of the function of the School, which was inaugurated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate unfortunately lasted only twenty years; it began with so many good hopes and with the good disposition of the Turkish Government toward the School - on the person of the new Ecumenical Patriarch, whose election the Government supported and approved fervently - in order to handle and cover its needs caused by WWII and post-war developments. In July 1971, the Theological Department of the School was forced to suspend its function, for it was unjustly subjected to the law instituted by the Turkish Government, banning the function of private universities.

Although the fourth period of the School was shorter compared to the third (1923-1951) and it functioned, save the first four years, under abnormal and hard external conditions, which influenced its undistracted and orderly function, during the other sixteen years it produced favourable results by producing a great number of graduates who covered and continue to cover its needs in its sacred and responsible missionary work.

This offering of the Theological School of Halki to the Ecumenical Patriarchate - both within and outside its See – and to other local Orthodox Churches but mostly to the Church of Greece, during this period of her function (1951-1971), was undoubtedly precious.

Within these twenty years, the School gave the Church two hundred thirty graduates; one hundred twenty nine of them were ordained; fifty reached the bishopric office and the remaining seventy-nine continued to serve as priests.

Out of the one hundred and one lay graduates, most became professors in the Highest- and Middle-Level Education, in Theological and other university Schools and in Lyceums and High Schools throughout Greece, Europe and America. Some University Professors have been appointed at times by the Church to represent it at various Theological conferences and dialogues.

Today, twenty-three years exactly after the forceful suspension of the function of the School, one hundred four clergymen minister to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to Archdioceses and Metropolises under its jurisdiction in Europe, America and Australia, and in other senior Patriarchates and the Autocephalous Church of Greece; forty-eight are bishops and fifty-six presbyters22. This number reveals the magnitude of the contribution of the School to the work and mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is credited to the reorganisation of the functional system in 1951, by way of a Regulation that provided the necessary conditions for the attraction and enrolment to the School of a large number of students from abroad, namely from the old Orthodox Patriarchates and other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. Through this reorganisation, the School regained anew the reputation and characterization of a pan-Orthodox Theological School, which it held since its establishment and of which it was deprived, due to circumstances that developed starting from 1923 onwards in the life of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its See, upon the transformation of the new state of Turkish republic and the abolishment of the state privileges it had.

Due to the reasons presented above, the opinion and view that Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras is the only one to blame for the decision of the Turkish Government to close the Theological Department of the School, on the reasoning that had he not sought the reorganisation of the School and had it continued its function under the old educational system, it would have remained open and not subjected to the law pertaining to private universities, is completely wrong and groundless.

The reorganisation of the School’s functional system, as has been said already, was the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch Maximos V (1946-1948), who was successful in obtaining the consent of the then Turkish Government, but could not implement it due to his resignation from the Ecumenical Office, on account of his unexpected illness and succession by Patriarch Athenagoras I.

The reorganisation, as was mentioned already in the beginning of this paper, was necessary and imperative, not only due to the dramatic post-war developments and upheavals in the life of various nations and Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, to which the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the Mother Church, owed support, but also due to disadvantages of the School’s functional system during its third period (1923-1951), most basic of which was the obligation of foreign students to be taught in the Turkish language, which they did not know, the courses of History, Geography, Sociology and Turkish Literature in the Theological Department.

This is an undisputed fact that only the graduates of the above period of the School, among them myself, the writer, experienced in all aspects. We witnessed first-hand the large and unsurpassable hardships and indomitable efforts of our foreign schoolmates to follow the as above courses, and their agony and fear during the exams and especially the annual oral exams by inspectors. We, only, understand and appreciate how important and beneficial was the decision of Mother Church for the School when in 1947 she sought to reorganize and change the functional Regulation, which was finally fully attained and implemented during the tenure of Patriarch Athenagoras I.

The great and valuable offering of the School to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a living achievement of which happens to be the very rich and fruitful presence to this day and the survival of its tradition through its dedicated surviving graduates who offer their services to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek minority, twenty-three consecutive years after its  closure, should be undoubtedly credited to the particularly carefully examined reorganisation by the Church of the functional system of the School, which was comprised by a three-class Lyceum Department and a four-class Special Theological department, and the enrolment and studying there of a great number of foreign students originating from Archdioceses and Metropolises of the Ecumenical Throne, the Ancient Patriarchates of the East, the Autocephalous Church of Greece, and the Ethiopian as well as the Anglican Churches.

The closure of the Theological School in 1971, at the decision of the Turkish Government, is related to political issues and has nothing to do with the reorganisation and the change of the functional system, nor with the law pertaining to private Universities, to which it was unfairly subjected and which the Turkish Government invoked deliberately and as pretext to cover its true intentions, which it wanted to conceal.

Due to the above reasons, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the School, at the decision of the Holy Synod, protested to the Turkish Government and through their appeal to the Supreme Constitutional Court, at about the end of 1971, asked that the Government to rescind the decision for the closure of the Theological School, since the law about private Universities did not include it, as was proven by its Regulation of its functional status that was ratified by the Ministry of Education.

It is noteworthy here the fact that the man who was appointed by the Holy Synod to proceed with the appeal to the Supreme Constitutional Court of Turkey, Mr. Ilhan Akipek, Professor of International Law in the University of Ankara, despite his initial positive predictions regarding the outcome and the vindication of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the School, during the course of the deliberations and the process of appeal to the Court and with one-on-one discussions with members, arrived to the conclusion that the whole issue of the School’s closure was political, and a subject that was embroiled in the general relations between Turkey and Greece, and, therefore, its resolution depended on them. Thereupon, he thought that any attempt toward a resolution through legal means would be futile and filed the order and proxy on behalf of the Patriarchate and the School to support further their request in the Constitutional Court.

The Theological School was undeniably included in the general plan of the competent Turkish state authorities, so that they could impose special measures with strict restrictions and harmful prohibitions on the function and activities of various institutions educational or not of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek nationals of Constantinople. As long as the Cyprus problem remained unresolved and the Greco-Turkish relations – which were most friendly at the end of WWII, 1945, through September 1955 - were going through a period of coldness and conflict and, at times, serious crisis, which from 1964 onwards culminated and leading to the known destructive consequences both for the 1700 year-old Ecumenical Patriarchate and the century-long Constantinople based Greek community.

It has admittedly been proven time and time again, that the relations between Greece and Turkey and the progress, for better or for worse, have become for the last fifty years the barometer for the favourable or unfavourable disposition and actions of the Turkish State toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek population, manifested accordingly and subject to circumstances.

A complete Listing of them is to be found in the Annex in the conclusion of this paper.