- By Antoinette Radford
- BBC News
The Vatican has returned three parts of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece in a move described as a “gesture of friendship”.
Last year, Pope Francis announced the decision to return the 2,500-year-old glass globes.
One of them is a piece of a horse’s head, the other is a bearded man, and the third is the head of a boy.
Greece hopes the move will motivate other overseas institutions that hold the Parthenon sculptures to return them.
About 50% of the original Parthenon sculptures have survived, and about half are in the British Museum.
“Today’s ceremony … similar to the gesture of the Government of Sicily and the Republic of Italy a few months ago, shows the path that we can follow, that everyone can follow, in order to restore the unity of the Parthenon,” Greek Culture Minister Linda Mendoni said on Friday.
As the pellets were returned, dignitaries exchanged handshakes and smiled in front of the cameras, including the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos.
“My sincere personal wish is that others will emulate this initiative. Pope Francis has shown that this is possible and important,” he said.
Marbles have been in the papal collection and the Vatican Museums for centuries.
But Greece has been trying to recover it from the Vatican and other European groups since the beginning of the twentieth century.
In the early 19th century, dozens of marbles were taken from the Greek Parthenon on the orders of the Scottish nobleman Thomas Bruce, better known as Lord Elgin.
He then sold the marble to the British government, which then displayed it in the British Museum.
The law prohibits the British Museum from permanently returning artwork to Greece.
But there has been speculation that a deal could include the sculptures destined for Athens on a rotating loan, in return for classical objects never seen outside of Greece before.
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