Pope Francis has decided to return to Greece three 2,500-year-old pieces from the Parthenon that were in the papal collections from Vatican museums for two centuries.
The Vatican said in a brief statement that the pope presented it to Archbishop Jerome II, head of the Greek Orthodox Church and spiritual leader of Greece, as a “donation” and “a concrete sign of his sincere desire to walk the ecumenical path.” Truth”.
The Parthenon, on the Acropolis in Athens, was completed in the fifth century BC as a temple to the goddess Athena, and its ornate friezes contain some of the greatest examples of ancient Greek sculpture.
The three parts of the Vatican include a horse’s head, a boy’s head, and a bearded male’s head, which have been kept by the Vatican since the 19th century. The boy’s head was loaned to Greece for a year in 2008.
The decision to “donate” the sculptures to the Greek Orthodox Church and not return them directly to the Greek state is widely seen as a way for the Vatican to avoid setting a precedent that could affect other treasures in its museums, like many First Nations collections. Colonial countries around the world are demanding that Western museums return artifacts and works of art looted during colonialism.
Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports He expressed his gratitude For the Pope’s “generous” decision as well as the hope that this move will put pressure on the British Museum. The Acropolis Museum also welcomed the decision. It is not yet clear what Ieronymos’ plans for the small sculptures are.
The Vatican’s decision, whose implementation is expected to take some time, is likely to add more pressure on the government The British Museumwhich refused to return its larger collection of Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, which have been a centerpiece of the museum since 1816.
For decades, Greece has pleaded with Britain to permanently return the 2,500-year-old carvings, which were removed from the Parthenon by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, then ruler of Greece.
The British Museum has repeatedly ruled out returning the marbles, which include about half of the 160-meter-long frieze decorating the Parthenon, insisting they were legally acquired.
earlier this month It was revealed that the museum’s trustees had secret talks with the Greek prime minister about returning the marbles. The Greek government said no decision was forthcoming, while the British Museum said that although it wanted a “new Parthenon partnership with Greece”, “we will not dismantle our great collection because it tells a unique story of our common humanity”.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Agency (UNESCO) has urged Greece and Britain to reach a settlement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report