On Friday afternoon, a reunification ceremony took place in Athens to celebrate the return of three fragments of the Parthenon to Greece from the collection of the Vatican Museums.
The fragments were repatriated to Greece as a donation by Pope Francis to the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Athens and all Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos II. The Parthenon fragments will now come under the care of the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
For decades, the Greek government has been at pains to repatriate pieces of the Parthenon that were appropriated without Greek consent. The recent return of these fragments from the Vatican’s collection represents a significant milestone, but dozens of pieces remain in foreign collections, most controversially with the British Museum.
Pope Francis returns Parthenon fragments to Greece
Pope Francis resolved to return the Parthenon fragments from the Vatican Museums’ collection to Greece after his apostolic tour of Greece and Cyprus in December 2021.
Before their return to Greece, the fragments had been kept in the Vatican Museums for over two centuries.
The donation ceremony held in Athens was presided over by Ieronymos II, Greece’s most senior archbishop, and Lina Mendoni, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports.
Representing the Vatican was a delegation that included Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity; Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawłowski, Apostolic Nuncio to Greece; Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity; and Prof. Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums.
“Initiatives like these show the way, how the pieces of the Parthenon can be reunited, healing the wounds caused by barbaric hands so many years ago,” said Mendoni.
“This takes us to the just and moral demand of the entire Greek people, and of this government and its prime minister, for the final return of all the sculptures of the Parthenon,” the Greek minister added.
During his address, Ieronymos II expressed great joy that the Parthenon fragments had been returned to “their natural place,” further noting that Pope Francis’ decision to donate the pieces had “historic importance, with multiple positive repercussions on several levels.”
Ieronymos II spoke further of “tangible proof of the fruits produced by the fraternal relations that exist among us Christians, guided by truth, love, mutual respect, and understanding.”
Bishop Brian Farrell also spoke at the ceremony. He described the return of the Parthenon fragments as “an ecclesial, cultural, and social gesture of friendship and solidarity with the people of Greece.”
He added that Pope Francis hoped that the return of the fragments would strengthen “ever more strongly the friendship and spiritual closeness between our Churches.”
“People of goodwill can see in this event the expression of a shared hope that our diverse cultures, and art itself, will always be a privileged means of dialogue and encounter among peoples. In that exchange, we enrich each other, in the wonderful diversity of our histories, our achievements, and the universal aspiration to peace and fraternity,” the Bishop continued.
Farrekk concluded by saying that he hopes “from the encounter between peoples and their cultures – of which the homecoming of the Parthenon fragments is one eloquent sign – will spring the understanding and solidarity that leads to peace.”
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