World Bulletin/News Desk
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is going to lead the Orthodox celebrations of Easter on May 5, for the first time on the island of Gökçeada (Imbros), where the patriarch was born and raised.
“As you know, there will be a Greek school opened there in September and Patriarch Bartholomew is quite happy with it, so he will be there for the religious celebration,” said Dositheos Anagnostopulos, spokesperson for the İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate headed by Bartholomew, spiritual leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
He also said that some ethnic Greeks who had to migrate from Gökçeada in the past because of political turmoil were coming back to the island for Easter.
Gökçeada, an island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Çanakkale in Turkey, was called Imvros in Greek and İmroz in Turkish until its name was officially changed in 1970. The 2011 census showed there are about 250 Greeks, mostly elderly, on the island of 8,210 people.
Turkey's Greek community of about 3,000 people has welcomed the recent news that their demand to reopen a primary school on Gökçeada was met by the Ministry of Education. There was already a primary school on Gökçeada, but it was closed down in 1964 at the time of the deportation of ethnic Greeks.
Greek schools in Turkey are on the verge of closure because the number of Greeks has been dwindling in Turkey. At least four Greek schools have been shut down by their owners since January 2011.
However, the Greek population of the island of Gökçeada has been growing, according to EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, who said more Greeks were returning to Turkey owing to the financial crisis in Greece. He said it “made utmost sense” to reopen their school.
“It is not an easy decision for Greeks who now live outside Turkey to establish their lives on Gökçeada. It is still good to have a school on the island because if there is no school, that means there are no children,” said Stelyo Berber, founder and former chairman of the Association for the Protection, Solidarity and Sustainable Development of Imbros.
Berber, whose mother, father and grandmother still live on the island, said he would have liked to stay on Gökçeada and go to school there, but that the school was not open at the time.
He estimates that the school will have the children of only a few families on the island, but in time the number of students might increase as some Greeks of İstanbul and Greece are considering sending their children there. For the Greeks of other countries, there are bureaucratic hurdles in the way as only citizens of Turkey are allowed to register their children in minority schools.
Berber notes the importance of the upcoming Easter celebrations on the island since Patriarch Bartholomew will be leading the ceremonies that were traditionally held at the patriarchate in İstanbul.
“My sister and her husband are going to the island from İstanbul for the celebrations. It is quite out of the ordinary that Patriarch Bartholomew will be on the island for Easter celebrations,” he said.
Patriarchate spokesperson Anagnostopulos notes that Patriarch Bartholomew, who is from island's Zeytinli village, “has always said that his biggest dream was to see the reopening of the school on the island.”
Halki Seminary's closure not understood
Patriarch Bartholomew's other wish is to see the reopening of the Halki Seminary, which was established in 1844 on the island of Heybeliada in Turkey and closed in 1971. It was the only school where Turkey's Greek minority educated clergy. Patriarch Bartholomew is one of its 900 graduates.
High-ranking Turkish officials have voiced their support several times for the reopening of the seminary, saying that it is a fundamental right of non-Muslims living in Turkey to raise their own theologians. The international community has repeatedly called for the reopening of the school, too.
Such problems are expected to be solved if Turkey can manage to make a new constitution that will grant religious freedom.
Laki Vingas, a member of the Greek community of İstanbul who also serves on the Council of the General Assembly of the Directorate General for Foundations (VGM) in the capital Ankara, said the new constitution is supposed to grant equal citizenship to all people in Turkey.Last Mod: 03 Mayıs 2013, 10:25