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Cultural Minister says Turkey aims to reopen Halki Seminary

The Orthodox Theological Seminary of Halki is to be reopened, according to Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay, adding that they are searching for a formula to integrate the school into Turkey's university system. "Although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary," said Gunay, speaking on Kanal 24 television.

Ankara has been long pressed by the Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew, The European Union, and the United States to re-open the seminary to prove their respect for religious freedom rights for the dwindling Christian minority. U.S. President Barack Obama openly expressed the issue during his address to the Turkish Parliament in April, saying, "Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening the Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond."

The Turkish government would have to change existing laws to reopen the seminary. According to news reports, the education ministry recently came up with a report listing different options to reach that aim. One would be to have the school function as an institution or a foundation, while another way could be to tie the seminary directly to the education ministry and the board of higher education.

"With the opening of the school, we strengthen ourselves and at the same time render a service to our own citizens on the way towards the EU," Minister Gunay told NTV, another news channel.

The century-old seminary was forcibly closed in 1971, depriving the Ecumenical Patriarchate its only facility to train clergy in Turkey for nearly four decades now.