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Visit to the Halki Seminary!

On Saturday morning, April 13, 2013 as the weekend of the prayerful observance of the Fourth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, also known as the Sunday of St. John of the Ladder, the graduating class of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, along with His Grace Bishop Daniel accompanied His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on a visit to the Theological School of Halki.

Following the arrival to the island, the group was welcomed by the abbot of the Holy Trinity monastery His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidoforos of Bursa, who kindly invited the seminarians with Vladyka Daniel to visit the school and learn about its history and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Later in the morning, His All Holiness hosted Bishop Daniel and the student body of St. Sophia Seminary for a session of “Coffee with the Patriarch” at which seminarians: Fr. Andriy Matlak, Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, Fr. Vasyl Dovgan, Deacon Philip Harendza, Fr. Victor and Pani-matka Ivanna Wronsky had an opportunity to learn from patriarch Bartholomew about his predecessors on the patriarchal throne, who served the Great Church of Christ with much love and self-sacrifice. While the Patriarch was attending a conference, Vladyka Daniel and the seminarians received a tour of the Theological School, which was founded on 1 October 1844 on the island of Halki, the second-largest of the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara. It was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church's Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until the Turkish parliament enacted a law banning private higher education institutions in 1971. The theological school is located at the top of the island's Hill of Hope, on the site of the Byzantine-era Monastery of the Holy Trinity. The premises of the school continue to be maintained by the monastery and are used to host conferences. It is possible to visit the island where it is located via boat in approximately one hour from the shore of Istanbul. 

The seminary is located on the site of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, founded by Patriarch Photius I almost a thousand years before the foundation of the theological school. During Ottoman rule the monastery fell in to disrepair. In 1844, Patriarch Germanos IV converted the monastery into a school of theology, which was inaugurated on 1 October 1844. All the buildings, except for the 17th-century chapel, were destroyed by an earthquake in June 1894, but were rebuilt by architect Periklis Fotiadis and inaugurated on 6 October 1896. These buildings were also renovated in the 1950s.

When established in 1844, the school had seven grades, four high school level and three higher level (theological grades). In 1899, the high school division was dissolved and the school functioned as an academy with five grades. In 1923, on the establishment of the Turkish Republic, the seven-grade system was restored (4 high school + 3 higher level). In 1951, it was changed to 3 high school + 4 higher level.

The facilities include the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, sports and recreational institutions, dormitories, an infirmary, a hospice, offices, and the school's library with its historic collection of books, journals, and manuscripts. The library contains over 120,000 books.

There have been 990 graduates of the theological school and many have become priests, bishops, archbishops, scholars, and patriarchs. Many former students are buried in the grounds of the school. Orthodox Christians from around the world have attended and graduated from the theological school and the alumni are distributed around the world.

In the evening, with the blessing of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Grace Bishop Daniel presided over the Vespers service at the monastery’s Holy Trinity Church. The entire service was chanted in Ukrainian and English languages by the students of St. Sophia Seminary, while Metropolitan Elpidoforos was in attendance. Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, who marked his one week anniversary of Holy Priesthood, along with Deacon Philip Harendza served the Vespers service. In conclusion, Bishop Daniel addressed His Eminence Metropolitan Elpidoforos, offering words of profound gratitude for his personal hospitality. The bishop reflected upon the rich history of Halki Seminary, mentioning that one of his consecrators, Metropolitan Nicholas of blessed memory (Carpatho-Rusyn American Orthodox Diocese) was a student and a graduate of Halki Seminary. In addition, Bishop Daniel stressed the importance of the contribution of Halki Seminary in the development and education of generations of Orthodox hierarchs and clergy. Responding to Bishop Daniels’ remarks, Metropolitan Elpidoforos greeted the bishop and the seminarians of the UOC of the USA, mentioning the upcoming historic celebration of 1025 anniversary of baptism of Ukraine, and the spread of Christianity over the Slavic lands following the baptism of Ukrainian lands. Further, reflecting upon the academic achievements of the Seminary’s graduates, the Metropolitan mentioned that many of the graduates became hierarchs of the world-wide Orthodox Church and some of them became Patriarchs of the Great Church of Christ.

As the day came to a conclusion, Metropolitan Elpidophorus hosted everyone in attendance to a private dinner at the monastery’s dining hall. The day officially concluded with the Evening prayers and preparations for the Divine Liturgy, which was to be served by His Grace Bishop Daniel and the students of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary at the monastery’s Holy Trinity Church on Sunday morning, April 14, 2013.

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