Vatican Returning Parthenon Fragments It’s Held For 200 Years

(Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Three fragments taken from ancient Parthenon sculptures will be returned to Greece following an agreement by the Vatican and the Mediterranean country Tuesday.

The fragments, which have been held in the Vatican Museums for 200 years, will be returned to Greece in what has been termed an “ecunemical donation” to the Orthodox Christian archbishop of Athens and all of Greece, avoiding a state-testate transfer, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The agreement signed between head of the Vatican city-state, Cardinal Fernando Vergez and a representative of the Orthodox Christian archbishop as well as Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, is the latest act of restitution for ancient artifacts that have been held in Western countries, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Houston Museum Returns Millenia-Old Looted Sarcophagus To Egypt)

“It has taken place at a difficult time for our country, and it will hopefully provide some sense of pride and happiness. I hope this initiative is followed by others,” Father Emmanuel Papamikroulis told The AP.

The Vatican’s move to return its Parthenon holdings has put more pressure on the British Museum to do the same, after refusing to return its much larger collection of Parthenon sculptures for decades, according to the outlet.

The British-held artifacts, known as the Elgin Marbles, are mostly remnants of a 520-foot frieze that ran along the outer walls on the Parthenon Temple, dedicated to Athena. The temple and its sculptures were crafted in the 5th century B.C. only to be damaged during a 17th-century bombardment. Many of the elements that survived were removed by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, The AP reported.

In February, chair of the British Museum George Osborne indicated the museum was willing to work with Greece on a deal that would allow the pieces to be featured in both London and Athens. “It’s a very hard problem to solve, but I think there is a way forward where these sculptures, the Elgin Marbles, the Parthenon Sculptures, could be seen both in London and in Athens, and that will be a win-win for Greece and for us,” Osborne said, according to Reuters.

As for the Vatican pieces, Papamikroulis told The AP the Greek Orthodox Church and archbishop were grateful to Pope Francis for the deal.

“This initiative does help heal wounds of the past and it demonstrates that when Christian leaders work together, they can resolve issues in a practical way,” Papamikroulis stated.

The fragments are due to arrive back in Greece later this month with a planned March 24 ceremony to receive them, the outlet stated.