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PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 111th CONGRESS, 1st SESSION

Vol. 154 Washington, Thursday, November 19, 2009 No. 15

Senate


CALLING UPON THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKEY TO FACILITATE THE REOPENING OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE'S THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL OF HALKI WITHOUT CONDITION OF FURTHER DELAY



HON. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN

OF MARYLAND

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Mr. CARDIN (for himself, Mr. Brownback, Mr. Reid, Mrs. Shaheen, Ms. Snowe, and Mr. Menendez) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations:

S. Res. 356

Whereas the Ecumenical Patriarchate is an institution with a history spanning 17 centuries, serving as the center of the Orthodox Christian Church throughout the world;

Whereas the Ecumenical Patriarchate sits at the crossroads of East and West, offering a unique perspective on the religions and cultures of the world;

Whereas the title of Ecumenical Patriarch was formally accorded to the Archbishop of Constantinople by a synod convened in Constantinople during the sixth century;

Whereas since November 1991, His All Holiness, Bartholomew I, has served as Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch;

Whereas Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997, in recognition of his outstanding and enduring contributions toward religious understanding and peace;

Whereas during the 110th Congress, 75 Senators and the overwhelming majority of members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives wrote to President George W. Bush and the Prime Minister of Turkey to express congressional concern, which continues today, regarding the absence of religious freedom for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the areas of church-controlled Patriarchal succession, the confiscation of the vast majority of Patriarchal properties, recognition of the international Ecumenicity of the Patriarchate, and the reopening of the Theological School of Halki;

Whereas the Theological School of Halki, founded in 1844 and located outside Istanbul, Turkey, served as the principal seminary for the Ecumenical Patriarchate until its forcible closure by the Turkish authorities in 1971;

Whereas the alumni of this preeminent educational institution include numerous prominent Orthodox scholars, theologians, priests, bishops, and patriarchs, including Bartholomew I;

Whereas the Republic of Turkey has been a participating state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) since signing the Helsinki Final Act in 1975;

Whereas in 1989, the OSCE participating states adopted the Vienna Concluding Document, committing to respect the right of religious communities to provide “training of religious personnel in appropriate institutions”;

Whereas the continued closure of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki has been an ongoing issue of concern for the American people and the United States Congress and has been repeatedly raised by members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and by United States delegations to the OSCE's annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting;

Whereas in his address to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on April 6, 2009, President Barack Obama said, “Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond.”;

Whereas in a welcomed development, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, met with the Ecumenical Patriarch on August 15, 2009, and, in an address to a wider gathering of minority religious leaders that day, concluded by stating, “We should not be of those who gather, talk, and disperse. A result should come out of this.”;

Whereas during his visit to the United States in November 2009, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I raised the issue of the continued closure of the Theological School of Halki with President Obama, congressional leaders, and others; and

Whereas Prime Minister Erdo?an is scheduled to make an official visit to Washington, D.C., in early December 2009: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) welcomes the historic meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I;

(2) urges the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay; and

(3) urges the Government of Turkey to address other longstanding concerns relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I was pleased to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, again last week during his visit to Washington. Together with the congressional leadership, we heard his impassioned call for support for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, an institution that has come to symbolize many of the difficulties faced by the Patriarch, the remnant of the Greek community in Turkey and other religious and ethnic minorities in that country.

I had the pleasure to meet Bartholomew I during an official visit to modern-day Istanbul in 1998. He impressed me as a man of good will, anchored in his deep personal faith, seeking to promote understanding, justice and respect for the human rights and dignity of each individual, the very qualities that prompted the Congress a year earlier to award him the Congressional Gold Medal. Indeed, his leadership extends well beyond the borders of Turkey to the Orthodox community around the world.

The Ecumenical Patriarch repeatedly returned to the issue of the Halki Seminary in various meetings during his U.S. visit, including at this oval office meeting with President Obama. Earlier this year, several of my colleagues from the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which I chair, joined me in a letter to the President underscoring our longstanding concern over the continued closure of this unique institution.

Founded in 1844, the Theological School of Halki, located outside modern-day Istanbul, served as the principal seminary for the Ecumenical Patriarchate until its forcible closure by the Turkish authorities in 1971. Counted among alumni of this preeminent educational institution are numerous prominent Orthodox scholars, theologians, priests, and bishops as well as patriarchs, including Bartholomew I. Many of these scholars and theologians have served as faculty at other institutions serving Orthodox communities around the world.

While over the years there have been occasional indications by the Turkish authorities of pending action to reopen the seminary, to date all have failed to materialize. In a potentially promising development, Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in August. In an address to a wider gathering of minority religious leaders that day, Erdo?an concluded by stating, “We should not be of those who gather, talk and disperse. A result should come out of this.”

I urge Prime Minister Erdo?an to follow through on the sentiment of those remarks by actions that will facilitate the reopening of the Halki Seminary without condition or further delay. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I am particularly mindful of the fact that the continued closure of the Theological School of Halki stands in clear violation of Turkey's obligations under the 1989 OSCE Vienna Concluding Document, which affirmed the right of religious communities to provide ``training of religious personnel in appropriate institutions.''

At a time when Turkey is seeking to chart a new course, the resolution of this longstanding issue would not only be a demonstration of Ankara's good will, but, as President Obama mentioned in his address to the Turkish Grand National Assembly in April, will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond. I remain hopeful and encourage Prime Minister Erdo?an to act decisively and without condition on this matter before his upcoming visit to Washington in early December.

To underscore the importance attached to the reopening of the Theological School of Halki and our solidarity with the Ecumenical Patriarch, I am pleased to introduce a resolution on this issue together with Mr. BROWNBACK, Mr. REID, Mrs. SHAHEEN, Ms. SNOWE, and Mr. MENENDEZ.





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