(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 07.03.2023).- The act of donation of the three Parthenon fragments, willed by the Holy Father “as a concrete sign of his sincere desire to continue in the ecumenical way of giving witness to the Truth,” was signed on Tuesday morning, March 7, in the Vatican Museums.
The ceremony took place at 11:30 am in the Profane Gregorian Museum with the presence of Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, LC, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City and President of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
“After his Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece, the Holy Father decided to give the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Athens, His Beatitude Ireonymos II, three fragments of the Parthenon, which for more than two centuries have been kept in the Vatican Museums,” said Cardinal Vérgez. The three fragments, which entered the Pontifical Collections after periodic purchases made at the beginning of the 19th century, represent different themes of the decoration of the emblematic Athenian temple and now they are returned to their place of origin as an ecumenical gesture,” he added.
Also attending the ceremony was Papamikroulis Emmanouil, in representation of His Beatitude Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece; the Honourable Styliani-Lina Mendoni, the Hellenic Republic’s Minister of Culture and Sports, and Dr. Barbara Jatta, Directress of the Vatican Museums.
Cardinal Vérgez also said:
I believe the most important value of this act is, once again, to see how the Roman Pontiff’s art collections become a privileged point of friendship between peoples, religions, Churches, overcoming all barriers. In fact, they make it possible to create a path of unheard of union and thus continue witnessing to the whole world that in open and fecund dialogue, it is always possible to find harmony and encounter. As Pope Francis teaches us: “Beauty unites us.” And today we feel united here, gathering under the sign of this most significant gift.
In this context, I would like to stress that this donation is a gesture of peace in this historic moment, so marked by wars. It intends to build bridges of fraternity and to show the world that there is always a path to dialogue and peace, as the Pontiff has requested repeatedly, that arms be silenced and an end be put to the suffering of the people and the systematic destruction of entire cities.
Cardinal Vérgez wished to mention a tragic accident that happened in Greece: “At this moment I cannot fail to recall the tragic train accident that took place in Tempi, in Larisa, on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 28. Unfortunately, the number of victims grew continually and who were, in the majority, students returning from Thessalonica. According to many, it is the worst train accident Greece has had. Expressing my closeness and solidarity with the Greek institutions and people, I pray for the survivors and their families, and for those that died.”
For his part, the representative of the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens, acknowledged that “This act, this initiative of His Holiness Pope Francis, has great historical significance and will have multiple positive repercussions. In the first place, because it constitutes a concrete sign, an incentive, to continue in the common ecumenical path of giving witness to the Truth.”
This coming March 24, a representative of the Dicastery for Christian Unity will attend the ceremony in Athens, on the occasion of the arrival of the fragments.