US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Turkey on Sunday to re-open Orthodox clergy schools near Istanbul that authorities have kept closed for more than 40 years.
“It is our hope that the Halki seminary will open,” Kerry said during a press conference in Istanbul after two days of talks on the Syrian crisis and the Mideast peace process.
Kerry said he discussed religious freedom in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey and the possible re-opening of the theological schools in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The Halki seminary, where Orthodox clergy used to train, is located on an island off Istanbul and was closed in 1971, after Turkey fell out with Greece over Cyprus.
Those wishing to learn more about the state of religious freedom in Turkey can do so here (though I do not endorse HALC on all issues).
On Sunday, Kerry met with His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. From the transcript :
SECRETARY KERRY: Its such a privilege to talk with somebody who has been such a voice for tolerance, a voice for interfaith understanding, who most recently visited with His Holiness Pope Francis and was at his investiture, and who has consistently talked out about protecting rights of minorities, protecting religious rights, and who is struggling for larger understanding in the world . . . .
PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW: Thank you, Your Excellency.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you for my reception. And he gave me a beautiful rosary that the Pope gave him thats been blessed by the Pope and by him, and I will carry that with great, great privilege . . . . Thank you, Patriarch.
PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW: Thank you. So have a nice life.