Patriarch renews Halki plea

ANKARA (AP) – Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, called on Turkey yesterday to allow the reopening of the vital Orthodox theological school of Halki, which was closed three decades ago. The state Anatolia news agency quoted Vartholomaios as saying he «hoped and believed» that he could soon reach an agreement with Turkish authorities to reopen the school on Heybeli Island off Istanbul, known as Halki in Greek, which trained many church leaders including Vartholomaios. «It’s our right to expect this,» Vartholomaios said during a visit to Cappadocia, a province in central Turkey that was once home to one of the most ancient Christian communities. Turkey closed the Halki seminary under a 1971 law requiring that higher religious and military education should be placed under state control. [The decision severed the lifeline of the nearly 2,000-year-old Orthodox Church in Turkey, which faces extinction, as there is nowhere for its clergy to train. Athens has long pressed Ankara on the matter, but to no avail.]