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Archbishop Spyridon Calls for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles

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Feb 11, 1999

Athens – This morning, His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon visited the Acropolis and called for the return of the Parthenon Marbles (wrongly called the "Elgin Marbles") to their rightful place in their homeland, Greece. The Marbles, which are marble friezes and statues of exquisite beauty and craftsmanship dating from the 5th century B.C., were taken from the Parthenon and the Acropolis by the 19th century British subject, Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl (hence the title "Lord") of Elgin. He acquired them through the corrupt patronage system of the Ottoman Empire and his position as the Ambassador of Britain in Constantinople. Some fifteen years after they were looted, the British Museum bought them, and they have been there ever since. The Parthenon Marbles now housed in the British Museum represent approximately 50% of the total sculpture that adorned the Parthenon. There has been an international movement, spearheaded by the late Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri, to restore the Marbles.

In his visit to the Acropolis, which has caused some surprise among the Greek media -- the Acropolis is generally considered a tourist site – Archbishop Spyridon gave a clarion call for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. He did so by demonstrating the link that culture and faith have. He decisively answered an ancient rhetorical challenge: "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" His call for the return of the Marbles to their rightful place is a voice of reason for the cultural patrimony and integrity of Greece, an integrity that was violated in the past with many unfortunate incidents of looting.

Attached is the text of the prepared remarks of the Archbishop.

COMING UP

In the afternoon, the Archbishop will be received by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, after which, there will be a Joint Press Conference and a luncheon hosted by Minister Pangalos in honor of His Eminence.

In the evening, the Archbishop will give an address at the University of Athens.

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Your Excellencies,

Esteemed Guests,

Beloved Friends,

Citizens of the World, All!

Silence is the only fitting tribute that can be offered in this place—a place without parallel in the world.

What human tongue can find words that are worthy of this sacred ground?

What voice can utter syllables that match the splendor, the beauty, the dignity, the significance, the gravity of this site and this structure?

Truly, a man of understanding can do not better than to stand in silence, in awe, in humility, before this, the great and timeless Parthenon, and let the stones themselves speak.

There is no human rhetoric which can match their eloquence.

There is no earthly language which can express their power—a power to move our souls, to rouse our minds, to inspire our spirits, and to capture our hearts, as these very stones can.

Like the city set on the hill (cf. Matt. 5:14), the Acropolis proclaims to the world the eternal message of our unbroken and undiminished Hellenic heritage.

And if that were not enough, I find my humble person standing near the place where the great Apostle to the nations— Saint Paul himself—stood and delivered for the first time to the people of this great city, the truth of Jesus Christ our immortal King and God.

The seed which the Apostle planted here found good soil—it germinated and took root—it blossomed and brought forth fruit—fruit unto the praise and glory of God, fruit of a nation and empire consecrated to the Name above every name in heaven or on earth or under the earth!

In this temple the praises of Jesus Christ were chanted for centuries.

In this place a great congregation gathered for many, many years, and these mighty stones echoed with hymns to the Holy and Consubstantial and Undivided Trinity!

They echo still with the sacred song!

This mountain still resounds with the solemn voice of glory!

Who, then, could dare to raise his voice in such a holy place?

Who could presume to add a word to the marvelous things that have been spoken in and by this place itself?

Only your kindness and generosity compels me to speak.

Only the honor that you bestow on me—or rather, on the people of the Omogeneia of America—on the men and women and children of the Diaspora whom I humbly represent, who share your faith and heritage, and who look to this place as a symbol of all that is theirs as a birthright and an inheritance—

Only for their sake and the honor you bestow on them, do I presume to break the silence of this venerable site and speak now.

"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" someone once asked.

I cast my eye over the Acropolis. I gaze upon the Parthenon, and I say to you all today: "Much in every way!"

Indeed, the Acropolis and the Temple Mount of Jerusalem are both icons in stone, wrought in the same spirit and faith.

For wherever we find a place such as this, a place where the heart and mind of man has fixed his gaze upwards in search of God, upwards towards the heavens, upwards away from himself and towards a higher and more sublime life, there we find the truest expression of the innate religious impulse of our race.

For the authentic anthropos, in the deepest sense of the word, is the one who fixes his vision on the things that are above, who looks past the temporal form of things into the eternal source of All. (cf. St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man)

In truth, all the virtues of balance, proportion, dignity, reverence, chastity, and worship which are embodied in this place, are the virtues which define our ancestral heritage, our pres

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