In a ceremony that started with the national anthems of Greece and Italy, a statue of Athena from the Acropolis Museum in Athens was delivered to the Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, Sicily, the culture ministry announced on Wednesday.
The ceremony was attended by Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni.
The statue will remain on display in Sicily for four years, in return for the generous gesture and and Sicily's political will in returning the Fagan fragment from the Parthenon frieze to the Acropolis Museum for eight years and to ask the Italian government for its permanent return.
"It is a great joy and honour for me to be with you, together with the general director of the Acropolis Museum and my associates, in order to return the generosity contained in the initiative by the regional government of Sicily...to not only give the Fagan fragment from the Parthenon frieze for lengthy exhibition in the Acropolis Museum but also to ask the Italian culture ministry for its permanent repatriation in Athens," Mendoni said.
"The return and reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens is a moral obligation for all of Europe, in the context of protecting our common cultural heritage. And the greatest strength for their reunification is the faith of the European themselves, as that of British citizens, in the importance of the Parthenon, this supreme monument for European culture," the minister noted, stressing that Greece views the architectural Parthenon sculptures at the British Museum as the proceeds of theft.
"Greece does not recognise any right of ownership, possession and exploitation of these. On the contrary, it is constitutionally obliged and morally justified in demanding and striving for their final, permanent and irrevocable return by any legal and available means, in order to restore justice and the moral order and chiefly to restore the integrity of the monument," she added.
Mendoni noted that the agreement with the Sicilian government envisaged the loan of two significant ancient artifacts from the Acropolis Museum collection to Palermo for a period of four years, saying that this indicated the path that London can follow in this regard.
The statue of Athena from the Acropolis Museum dates between 420-400 B.C. and shows the goddess leaning on her spear (now lost). After four years, the statue will be replaced by a geometric pottery vase.
Mendoni relayed the greetings of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and said that Greece is open to further cooperation with Sicily and is willing to entrust it with certain artifacts relating to the myth and form of Ulysses to be included in an exhibition dedicated to the mythic hero.