Pope Francis decided to donate fragments of the Parthenon that were in the Vatican museums “as a concrete sign of a sincere desire to continue on the ecumenical journey of witness to the truth.”
The three fragments, part of the sculptures of the Parthenon, are of Pentelic marble, reached the Vatican in the 19th century.
According to the experts, the first fragment belongs to a horse of Athena's quadruped. The second one, according to Ans, is the head of a teenager and depicts the face of the sculptures that were outside the nave of the temple and brought bread, which they offered during the Panathenaia.
The third fragment, finally, is a bearded male head, which belongs to the south metope, where the Centaur Battle was depicted.
More specifically, in an official announcement of the Vatican it is underlined:
"Pope Francis, as a substantial proof of the sincere desire to continue the ecumenical march for witnessing the truth, decided to donate to His Beatitude Hieronymus, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, three fragments of the Parthenon, which for centuries have been kept with great care in the collections of the Pontiff and in the Vatican Museums, and which were exhibited to millions of visitors".
As the archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos II is the primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece. He most recently met with Pope Francis during the pope's apostolic trip to Greece in December 2021.
In the meeting with the Greek Orthodox leader in Athens last year, Pope Francis apologised for past actions and decisions by the Catholic Church “that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power [and] gravely weakened our communion.”
“History makes its weight felt, and here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics,” the pope said in Athens, where he also made a brief stop to see the Parthenon at night.
This isn’t the first time that Pope Francis has made an ecumenical gesture with a centuries-old gift. In 2019, the pope gave Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I a relic of St. Peter as "a confirmation of the journey that our Churches have made in drawing closer to one another."