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Speech by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the presentation of the documentary "The Silent School"

Holy Brothers, Your Excellence the General Consul of Greece, music lovers here present,

Although the honourable General Consul Mr. Vassilios Bornovas has treated us to successive pleasing surprises, tonight’s event is one of the most illustrious and the emotions it generates in the hearts of all of us, and especially those who were fortunate to study in the renowned School of Halki, the speaker of these lines among them, are literally indescribable.

The Theological School of Halki, from which We graduated fifty years ago, was the Patriarchate’s newest source of pride; the nursery where Theological studies were cultivated in conjunction with the praxis of the ecclesiastical life, in both its liturgical and its ascetic and moral components. The Monastery of the Holy Trinity, an ancient instrument of virtue and blessing, for many decades welcomed with affection those who represented the hopes of the Church and, with the benediction of the Patriarch, sheltered them in its spiritual embrace, while venerable and wise Scholarchs and professors transmitted to them the lights of holy knowledge and virtue. The elite from the prelatures of the Ecumenical Throne, as well as elect young men from other Patriarchates and Churches, studied in Halki, were nourished by the milk of the Mother Church, the sweet bread of Theology, the spring waters of science, equivalent of piety, matured spiritually and then flew like eagles spreading their wings on exalted ideas to reach the ends of the Ecumene carrying the joyous message of Christ, becoming shepherds of provinces in far-away lands, putting themselves in harm’s way at dangerous times, teaching to all and sundry the great mystery of the Holy Mother and Nurse Church of Constantinople and the nobleness of our pious nation. Numerous are those who honoured the holy Apostolic Throne as well as other Thrones, of Patriarchates and Archbishoprics of Autonomous Churches. The hill of Hope on our beloved Halki of the Princes’ islands became the Hill of golden hopes for the ministering Church.

This speaker was fortunate not only to have studied in Halki for a period of seven years, but also to have assisted our late Scholarch for a period of four years. He grew up within the Monastery and the School, he tasted the probity of Orthodox theory and praxis within its holy gardens, underwent unique experiences and spiritual exaltation, founded there his own dreams of humble ministration of the Church. As a consequence, Halki will always be a part of his heart, his soul, his whole being! This is why his grief for the school’s forty year-long captivity and silence is inconsolable. For forty years, God’s chosen people suffered in the waterless desert of Sinai with the sweet anticipation of the Promised Land. For forty years, the Theological School of Halki suffers from the drought of an involuntary desolation, of imposed silence.  For forty years, torrents of bitter tears run from the eyes of Patriarchs, Prelates, Theologians, professors and alumni, as well as many other faithful children of the Church, lamenting our “Silent School”.  For forty years we request, we beseech, we knock on doors, we annoy the ears of people in charge, but “none speaks and none listens”! One wonders, until when?

One wonders, do we not enjoy the basic rights to theological education in today’s democratic Turkey?

One wonders, do we not need to educate officials of the Ecumenical Throne according to our traditions?

One wonders, do we not deserve an honest and direct answer on behalf of the government?

We occasionally hear reassuring speeches and promises, and then more speeches and promises, and yet again speeches and promises, without unfortunately any felicitous outcome. We are in every way law abiding citizens of this country and we never inconvenience the ruling authorities. So we ask: Why? What is the reason we suffer all of this? What will this country gain from this attitude?

International Organisations, powerful countries, eminent figures and intellectuals from this country and from abroad speak in favour of Halki’s rights and join their voices to ours in requesting the Theological School’s immediate reopening. Consent to this would raise Turkey in the eyes of the whole world and would smooth the way for its desired accession to the European Union. Yet, as the Greek saying goes, Our “throat is sore” from repeating this. May God shed light on those who are in charge by speaking warmly to their hearts; and may we be blessed to see –finally!− the miracle of the reopening of our Theological School.

We congratulate from the depth of Our heart IDISME, the Hellenic History Foundation, for the commendable initiative to create this remarkable historical documentary, “The Silent School”, through which the problem and the grief of Halki is made known. The courteous ladies Irini Sarioglou and Eleni Bakatsi, as well as the learned composer Vassilis Dimitriou, and all those who toiled for this documentary are deserving of Our gratification, which they most obviously enjoy, as does the honourable directorate of IDISME. We wish to thank in particular the honourable General Consul for his hospitality on the first official screening of this documentary tonight in the always hospitable premises of the Sismanogleion Palace. We wish to all a long life with the blessing and the grace of God, and may we all live to see, very soon, the reopening of our illustrious Theological School with glorious alumni, an event that will bring joy both to Heavens and to us mortals on this earth. May your lives, dearest brothers and beloved children of our Lord, be graced with health and may everything you wish for be fulfilled.


Successful event organised by H.H.F. at Sismanogleio Megaro

The event organized by the Hellenic History Foundation in collaboration with the General Consulate of Greece in Istanbul on Monday February 28 2011 at Sismanoglio Hall, was a great success. At the event , held in honour of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of completing 50 years (in religious life) since his graduation from the Halki Seminary, the documentary "The Silent School" about the history of the school was presented for the first time.

The event was attended by Greek and Turkish historians, academics and journalists. There was also a great turnout of the Greek community. The Greek Parliament was represented by Chryssa Arapoglou.

With great emotion, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the situation that has befallen the School since 1971 and expressed the fervent desire of all the Orthodox Community to see the School’s doors open again soon for students.