In an exclusive interview to ANA-MPA, the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, stresses that there are no reasons why the Halki Seminary should not reopen.
“We support the reopening of Halki and have so for a period of time. It needs to be reopened and this should have happened many years ago. It is really time for the Turkish government to allow it to happen. There are no excuses for why this should not happen”, characteristically stated the American diplomat, who visited Greece the previous days and had a number of contacts with representatives of the political and religious leadership.
“On a scale of issues on religious freedoms, this is an important one. This is about training a future generation of Orthodox Priests in a very mainline School, which was shut down”, claims Mr. Brownback, stressing that it is really the time for the Turkish government to allow the reopening of the Theological School.
Mount Athos is one of a kind
The last stop in the US diplomat’s visit to Greece, before he departs from Thessaloniki, was Mount Athos. Mr. Brownback expressed his excitement saying that it is “a special place and I haven’t been to a place like this anywhere else in the world!”.
“This is the first time I visit Mount Athos, and now I realize why people go there. It is the history of the place, the artifacts I saw. These amazing things you see, the icons… it was beautiful. I had a very good trip there and it was exciting to see all these things. What was interesting and intriguing to me about it is the importance of Mount Athos to the entire Christian world, particularly the Orthodox world. Here’s a pretty remote place that’s hard to get to, but out of it emanates so much spirituality for Orthodoxy”, claimed the US Ambassador to ANA-MPA.
The state of religious freedom in Greece is excellent
The US diplomat characterizes the state of religious freedom in Greece as “excellent”. In his own words, “People here are free to practice their religious rights of their choice, when they want to, or not to do it at all. The situation is really good, quite a model for religious freedom”.
Support to the self-administration of Ukrainian Church
On the issue of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, US Ambassador on Religious Freedom stresses the US principle on self-administration of religious communities. “The Ukrainian people have decided that they want to have an Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has decided and agreed with that and granted the Autocephaly. That should be the decision and it shouldn’t have an interference from an outside government saying that it should go another way. So we support the Church’s decision on how it chooses its own leadership and that should really be the end of the story”, concluded Mr. Brownback.