15 years before...


The Theological School of Halki: the Vision for the Next Day

Tuesday, 14 March, 2017

On Saturday, March 11, 2017, a public lecture, delivered by the His Eminence Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and Dean of the School of Theology of Halki on the topic “The Theological School of Halki: the Vision for the Next Day,” and organized by the Volos Academy for Theological Studies in cooperation with the Holy Metropolis of Demetrias, was successfully held in Volos, at the conference center “Forum”.
In his welcome greetings Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, the Director of Volos Academy for Theological Studies, presented a short biography of His Eminence Metropolitan of Bursa, and an overview of the history and the present situation of the Theological School of Halki.
In his talk, preceded by an short video, Metropolitan of Bursa and Exarch of Bithynia, Elpidophoros gave a historical account of the foundation of the School, whereas he particularly mentioned all his predecessors and the eminent Hierarchs came from the School (Ecumenical Patriarchs, Patriarchs of Alexandria, Archbishops, Metropolitans, etc).
The Theological School of Halki was founded in 1844. The School functioned as a monastic brotherhood, and therefore was able to hire only male students, clergymen, monks and laymen. In 1971, after the issue of a relevant law which prohibited the operation of private higher education institutions, the School sealed its gates.
Apart from the many historical elements, Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros focused on his vision for the next day, a vision about a School that will provide theological education of high university level, recognized both by the international academic community and the state authorities of Turkey.
Responding to a question about the reopening of the School, especially in the difficult context of our time, Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros stressed that “whether is it possible, is simply a matter of God. We do not want to enter the discussion whether and, when it will become a reality, whether is it easy, or not. On our part we must do our duty. This is what the Church and the Patriarchate always did. And this duty is not just to fight for the reopening of the school, but to prepare ourselves for that day”. As he noted: “We prepare ourselves for the day of the reopening. It is not an imagined chimera, but it is a reality which we are going to live and for this purpose we prepare it.”
Α proponent of reconciliation and dialogue at both ecumenical as well as in interreligious level, Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros referred to the coexistence of the Greek and Turkish people, and the unifying role played by the Church. As he further stated: “This is a Church which embraces all the people; a Church in dialogue with all people, without boundaries and prejudices. Insofar as Hellenism preserves this spiritual richness, which is linked to the Orthodox faith and the Orthodox Church itself, it preserves its soul. And as soon as the soul of Hellenism is alive, Metropolitan of Bursa continued, I am not afraid.”
As he further said at another point of his talk, Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros “God gave us this particular role in the Church. And we are grateful to God for giving us such a task and mission that we strive by our efforts to fulfill it. We prepare ourselves at various levels for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, because otherwise it would mean that we give up. In this light we have already completed the restoration of the building, built in 1896, having prepared a concrete architectural study. We have also developed an academic program with a full curriculum, while we have also trained clergy as academic staff of the School”. He further added that a monastic brotherhood consisted by seven monks was restored while the spiritual treasure of the famous library of the School is exploited. In addition, bilateral cooperation with several Universities in Greece and Europe has been already signed, while the training of 50 students have been facilitated due to the ERASMUS programs.
Particular attention was given by the audience to the last part of his speech where Metropolitan of Bursa, referred to the encounter and the dialogue with Islam. According to His Eminence, “the reopening of the School is important not only for the Ecumenical Patriarchate but for all Christianity, Islam and Turkey. Let me explain myself: The Graduates of our School will carry the spirit of our Patriarchate, a spirit of dialogue, cooperation, peace and love. It is not a spirit of intolerance, conservatism, fundamentalism, nationalism and division. We always promote peace and dialogue. Our graduate will be a witness of peace and cooperation with all the Churches and all religions. [...] The next day of the school, is not very far.”
The event ended with Metropolitan of Demetrias Ignatius, expressing his gratitude at the presence of His Eminence at the city of Volos and the Metropolis of Demetrias. He also referred to his personal experience he had gained from his ministry at the Metropolis of Piraeus, with the occasional visits to Phanar, and his own participation in the events and international conferences of “Syndesmos,” the World Federation of Orthodox Youth, which gave him the opportunity to communicate with both the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne and with the late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios.
On Sunday, March 12, 2017, Metropolitan of Bursa celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Nikolaos in Volos. He also had the opportunity to visit Thessalia Conference Centre in Melissatika, the offices and the libraries of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, followed by a private meeting and cooperation with the Director of the Volos Academy, Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzidis, during which they discussed issues of mutual interest with a view to cooperation in the field of joint seminars, digitilization and publications.