‘Commander opposed Halki Seminary reopening over fears’

January 21, 2011, Friday/ 17:42:00/ FATİH VURAL

A document included in additional folders of the indictment against the Sledgehammer coup plot has suggested that former Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek opposed the reopening of a Greek Orthodox seminary, closed in 1971, during a 2004 National Security Council (MGK) meeting on the grounds that the nuns wearing “traditional Christian clothing” at the seminary would set a precedent for headscarf freedom at universities.

The document titled “Özden Örnek Veri CD” (Özden Örnek Data CD) begins with the salutation “Esteemed President” and is thought to have been presented to the MGK in a meeting in June 2004. In the text, the former commander suggests that then-President Ahmet Necdet Sezer should prevent the reopening of the seminary under the joint control of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Ministry of Education. “The fact that theology students will be educated in accordance with the spiritual identity of the school and that traditional [Christian] clothing will be worn at the school will reignite the problem of headscarf-wearing students,” the document says.

Established Oct. 1, 1844, on Heybeli Island -- or Halki in Greek -- in the Sea of Marmara, the Halki Seminary was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s patriarchate in İstanbul until its closure by Turkish authorities in 1971. The İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has long complained about the status of the seminary, with Patriarch Bartholomew saying its reopening is of vital importance for the survival of the Greek Orthodox clergy.

Örnek objected the reopening of the seminary under the control of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and said such a move could be “a concession to be given to the European Union.”

“There will be no return after this concession and the process of giving ecumenical status to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, which will pave the way for the patriarchate to go out of our control,” the document states.

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