Halki Awakening: The Big Picture

To conclude our coverage of Constantinople and our focus on The Theological School of Halki, our guest blogger this week is a long-time National Board Member, Legal Advisor to the National Philoptochos Society, and Chair of the Philoptochos Pilgrimage, Anita Kartalopoulos who describes the vision for Halki beyond its use as a seminary. Mrs. Kartalopoulos and her husband Stamati Kartalopoulos, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, have visited Constantinople and the Patriarchate 15 times.
Most of us who hear the word “Halki” experience mixed feelings: we feel pride that Halki, one of the foremost theological seminaries in the world, is part of our Ecumenical Patriarchate but also sorrow that this great educational institution remains closed.  Halki is close to all of our hearts and because of its importance is one of the foremost causes of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who ceaselessly champion the reopening of its doors as a seminary.
 For those of us who have visited Halki in the past, we experienced a place in a state of ‘suspended animation’—waiting for the moment when it will awaken and be filled again with seminarians focused on theological study and who seek the greater honor and glory of God.
On June 12th, the participants in the Philoptochos Pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate had the opportunity to visit Halki.  Traveling by boat and with great
anticipation, we were accompanied by His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidophoros who for the last two years has been responsible for Halki.  He shared with us his experiences since being assigned as the Abbot of the Monastery of Aghia Triada at Halki---and so much more.  An exciting story of revival, hope and action unfolded.  We listened in amazement and anticipation.

The buggy ride to the gates of the property was filled with smiles and laughter. For many of us, our last buggy ride had been in Central Park. What we witnessed upon arrival at
Halki’s gate, however, was new for those of us who had been there before.  Though the property itself was always bucolic and beautiful, this time it was different.  The gardens were well-manicured, the paths and surrounding areas refurbished and refreshed.  The main building itself had interior renovations and sparkle…light everywhere.  There were volunteers updating the library collections, imaging documents on the computer system and doing the kinds of things that are associated with active institutions.  There were many more people there than we normally encountered—monks, nuns, and tourists—lots of activity.  Truly, the place was humming!

We visited the church, venerated the icons and were so pleased to learn that Holy Week and Easter were celebrated there with many faithful from Greece and Turkey.  Since it was the day before the feast of the Ascension, we too sang Christos Aneste in that beautiful place.

We entered into the seminary building and in the beautiful main hall continued our visit
with His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidophoros.  There he told us of his assignment to Halki, of his desire to see the doors of the seminary open again and his willingness to work tirelessly for that day to come.  He told us that he was unwilling to watch the property sit idle until the seminary would be permitted to reopen.  He said, ‘The Monastery was not closed by the government, so I decided to revive the Monastery.  We now have four monks, one of whom is about to be ordained a deacon, in a matter of days.’  We met the wonderful young monk, Galanos, whose ordination was only days away, as well as the other monks of the newly re-functioning monastery.

‘Halki was not closed as a center for conferences,’ His Eminence further explained, ‘so in consultation with the University of Salonika College of Architecture, a plan for an environmentally-sensitive modern conference center has been developed and reviewed
by the Synod. I would like to share it with you.’  He showed us the architectural drawings of the proposed conference center, light-filled, hope-filled and in complete harmony with the existing structures.  Clearly, the rest of the Halki picture was being revealed.  This Metropolitan was not content with a Halki that was merely a ‘sleeping beauty’—but was seeking to revive the facility and embark on a 21st century mission.

He went on to tell us ‘we need the participation of women if we are to succeed.’ He
explained that given the fact that the property houses a monastery for monks, a location for women’s housing would be necessary.  A near-by property has been identified that will fulfill this need.  Undaunted by the challenges of obtaining and renovating the property, this energy-filled clergyman, enlightened by boundless faith is focused on this vision. 

The Halki picture - is a new more expansive picture than that which existed in the recent
past.  While the mission of reopening the seminary continues unabated, another parallel mission exists.  It was unveiled to us by the dynamic Metropolitan who is today entrusted with the care and nurturing of this jewel of the faith.  We were blessed to have been shown this hopeful, expansive vision and and thankful that we will have the chance to help further this mission: the opportunity to participate in the ‘Halki Awakening.’
                                                                  -Anita Kartalopoulos, National Board Member

To view pictures of the proposed conference center at Halki, please visit this website: http://www.koolnews.gr/diethni/etsi-tha-ginei-i-theologiki-sxoli-tis-xalkis/