US to return looted 16th century manuscripts to Greece
According to Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, they will be repatriated to the same monastery during a ceremony in Manhattan.
When three Greek-language manuscripts dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries were auctioned and sold off in 2008 by Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan, New York, the antiquities dealer who purchased them brought them back two years later after suspecting that they had been stolen.
After the dealer was reimbursed for his purchase, the auction house was not able to contact the original seller, and the manuscripts were put to the side for almost 10 years - until three months ago after Swann's CFO stumbled upon them during an office renovation.
After Bulgarian fighters allegedly took nearly 900 items from the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery, or the Kosinitza, suspicions arose to claim that the artifacts were looted and stolen from that monastery during World War I.
Read next: 'Delayed repatriation is delayed justice for Native peoples': Senators
According to Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, they will be repatriated to the same monastery during a ceremony in Manhattan arranged by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Archbishop will then hand over the manuscripts to the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will then deliver them to the Kosinitza monastery.
“It is a blessing for the monastic sisterhood at the monastery of Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa to see the contents of their former library slowly being returned to them,” Archbishop Elpidophoros said in a statement. He said the church hoped other organizations with manuscripts stolen from the monastery would also have them returned.
New York's Manhattan has been the repatriation hub for the past few months, especially after being home to looted artifacts from Africa and the Mediterranean.
At the end of March this year, Pope Francis decided to right a wrong and returned three ornately carved fragments that once adorned the Parthenon to Greece from the Vatican. A much larger collection of works removed from the temple in what are now viewed as highly contentious circumstances more than 200 years ago is still kept by the British Museum.
The head of the Orthodox church agreed to give the artifacts to the Acropolis Museum after the pontiff announced that he wanted to donate them to the Iernymos as “a concrete sign of his sincere desire to follow in the ecumenical path of truth."
In April, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that 15 sculptures, trafficked by Subhash Kapoor who owned the former Manhattan-based gallery Art of the Past, will be returned to the Indian government - per orders from DA Alvin Bragg.
In that same month, the city returned 12 looted antiquities to Turkey, some of the looted objects were displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU) has repatriated more than 950 antiquities stolen from 17 countries and valued at approximately $180 million.
Read more: Palestinian organisations call for boycott of Captain America sequel