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Congresswoman Nita Lowey Demands Return of Property, Re-Opening of Religious School

(Hellenic News) – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) Thursday pushed the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament to return property that had been confiscated from the Orthodox Church and allow the reopening of the Theological School at Halki. Lowey pressed for these actions during a congressional delegation trip to Turkey and the Middle East . “The Ecumenical Patriarchate has endured the abuse of the Turkish Government long enough,” said Lowey. “It is long past time for Turkey to return Patriarchal properties and reopen the Theological School at Halki. As Turkey prepares for accession negotiations with the European Union, I hope it will demonstrate its commitment to human rights and civil liberties by ending discrimination against the Patriarchate.” In recent years, the Turkish government has confiscated 75 percent of the 1,747 properties belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul , Turkey , including an orphanage the Church has held since 1902. The government has also limited to Turkish nationals the candidates available to the Holy Synod for selection as the Ecumenical Patriarch, and has indefinitely closed the Theological School at Halki, preventing the training of Orthodox Christian clergy in Turkey . In a meeting in Istanbul Thursday with Speaker Bulent Arinc, Lowey expressed her outrage at the actions of the Turkish government. She asked that the Patriarchal property be immediately restored and the Halki School reopened. While Speaker Arinc stated that he believed it would be useful to reopen the institutions, given recent court decisions denying the Ecumenical Patriarchate status as a legal entity, a legal solution needed to be found.