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Greek Archbishop asks Pope about return of Parthenon fragment

The Orthodox Archbishop of Athens has raised the issue with Pope Benedict of the return of a piece of the Parthenon currently in the Vatican Museum. The Pope says that he will consider the request.
The success of this request is a lot more likely following the return of the Heidelberg fragment [1] earlier this year, which represented the first time that a foreign institution had returned part of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece.

Reuters [2]

Greek bishop asks Pope to return piece of Parthenon
Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:56pm ET140

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Greece’s top religious leader asked Pope Benedict on Thursday to return a piece of the Parthenon in the Vatican Museums, Greek officials said.

Christodoulos, Orthodox archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, made the request during a visit when he and the Pope signed a joint declaration on issues of common concern, such as the defense of life.

According to spokesmen for Christodoulos, the Pope was a bit perplexed by the request, perhaps not knowing that the vast museums he technically owns as sovereign of Vatican City have a fragment of the 5th century BC structure.

He said he would consider the request, they said.

Greece has been campaigning for decades to get back all pieces of the Parthenon held in museums and private collections around the world. The 2,500-year-old Acropolis monument is seen as the epitome of the Golden Age of Athens.

Much of a procession frieze from the Parthenon is in the British Museum as part of a collection known as the Elgin Marbles, after the British ambassador who took them from the Acropolis and transported them to Britain in 1802.

The British Museum has repeatedly turned down requests to return them, saying the marbles are in better care in London, safe from the Athens pollution that damaged those left behind.

Greece hopes a museum being built at the foot of the Acropolis, especially to house the marbles, will be ready in 2007.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.