The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the spiritual home of the world’s oldest and second largest Christian church. Prior to its forced closure by Turkish authorities in 1971, the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology was the primary seminary for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and was considered the educational center for Orthodox Christians worldwide. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and five million Orthodox Christians in the United States, is a graduate of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.
The Turkish government continues to tolerate assaults against its Greek Orthodox Christian religious minority and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and it continues the illegal closure of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology. These actions violate U.S. principles on freedom of religion and U.S. law as expressed in Section 2804 of the Omnibus Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1998 (PL 105-277).
On March 20, 2012, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its 2012 annual report designated Turkey as a “country of particular concern,” which reaffirmed the Turkish government’s continued tolerance of assaults upon its many minority populations including the Greek Orthodox Christian minority and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. These are all actions that violate the founding principles and laws of the United States. The Commission’s report specifically citeed Turkey’s policies that: deny non-Muslim communities the right to train clergy, including the closure of the Greek Orthodox Halki Patriarchal School of Theology; officially do not accord the ecclesiastical title “ecumenical” to the Ecumenical Patriarch, interfere in the internal governance of the Greek Orthodox community, and retain the power to expropriate religious minority properties.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, introduced H.Res.506, calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay. The resolution also urges the Government of Turkey to address other longstanding concerns relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
We urge you to contact your U.S. representative and request them to co-sponsor H.Res.506—especially if they are a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
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Urge House Foreign Affairs Committee to Support Halki Resolution on June 7