Two centuries after they were stolen, three Parthenon sculpture fragments are being returned to Greece. Western museums are increasingly settling restitution disputes. It is not necessarily a state-to-state transfer, but Vatican officials should return to the Orthodox Christian archbishop of Athens and all Greece. AP reports that the British Museum is under pressure to reach an agreement with Greece about its Parthenon sculpture collection.
The head of the Vatican city-state, Cardinal Fernando Vergez, signed an agreement to implement the transfer during a private Vatican Museums ceremony with Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni and a representative of the Orthodox Christian archbishop of Athens and all Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos II. The envoy, Father Emmanuel Papamikroulis, told AP that the Greek Orthodox Church and archbishop were grateful to Pope Francis for the deal.
There will be a ceremony on March 24 to receive the fragments when they arrive in Athens later this month. Despite decades of requests from Greece, the British Museum has refused to return its much larger collection of Parthenon sculptures. The British Museum chair announced earlier this month that Britain and Greece were working on a deal to display the Parthenon Marbles in both London and Athens.
It is believed that the 5th century B.C. sculptures are mostly remnants of a 160-meter-long (520-foot) frieze that surrounded the Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis. In the early 19th century, a British diplomat, Lord Elgin, removed about half of the frieze and other sculptural decoration after it was damaged in a 17th-century bombardment.