Greece thanked Pope Francis for the return of the Parthenon fragments during a visit to the Vatican by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni on Monday.
The meeting follows the reunification ceremony which took place on last Friday in Athens, which saw the three fragments of the Parthenon that had been preserved for more than two centuries in the Vatican Museums returned to Athens and the Acropolis Museum.
Minister Mendoni presented the Pope with a letter from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, thanking him for his important decision to donate the three fragments of the Parthenon to Archbishop Hieronymos.
Pope Francis decided to return Parthenon fragments in 2021
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.
During his 45-minute meeting with Mendoni, the Pontiff expressed his endless respect for Greece as the cradle of Western Civilisation, highlighting his relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
As a token of gratitude, the Greek Culture Minister presented the Pope with the ‘Refugee’ replica of a 1st century BC marble statue (known as ‘To prosfygaki’), a special gift to reflect the Pope’s love for children and his constant efforts to better the conditions refugees face worldwide.
The original statue of the ‘Refugee’ was unveiled in August 1922 in Gerontiko of Nyssa, Smyrna by archaeologist Konstantinos Kourouniotis who managed to salvage the find during the first days of the destruction of Smyrna.
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.
The donation ceremony held in Athens was presided over by Ieronymos II, Greece’s most senior archbishop, and Mendoni.
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.
The three fragments of Pentelic marble are remnants of a 160-meter-long (520-foot) frieze that ran around the outer walls of the Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis, dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom.
The fragments came into the possession of the Vatican in the 19th century.
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