“It is a humanistic and Islamic duty to open the seminary. The closure of the seminary was a mistake, and keeping it closed is another mistake. There is no legal obstacle before the reopening of the seminary. This [reopening of the seminary] is a right,” Çelik said in remarks that appeared in the Radikal daily on Thursday.
He said it is possible to reopen the seminary within 24 hours once a decision is made to this effect and that the arguments put forward to keep the seminary closed have no validity.
The Halki Seminary, the only school where the Greek minority in Turkey used to educate its clergymen, was closed in 1971 during a period of tension with Greece over Cyprus and a crackdown on religious education that also included Muslim religious schools.
The total number of graduates from the school is 990, and some of them have become clergymen in various places in Turkey and even in Athens. The school has been well kept since there is a functioning monastery on its premises.
Çelik also noted that those opposed to the reopening of the seminary on Islamic grounds were greatly mistaken and called on these circles to empathize with the Greeks.
“There is now an Islamic university in Rotterdam. Five hundred students study theology there. Religious communities and sects have their extensions and institutions in Europe. There are 5,000 mosques in Europe, one-third which were previously churches. We need to be honest and empathize with them. Muslims will open [the Greek seminary], Europe will approve of this. Will it be the end of the world if 100 priests are raised in Turkey? Is there such a thing? One who is confident in their religion would be concerned about the religious liberties of others,” said Çelik.