Vatican City - Greece's top religious leader asked Pope Benedict on Thursday to return a piece of the Parthenon in the Vatican Museums, Greek officials said.
Christodoulos, Orthodox archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, made the request during a visit when he and the Pope signed a joint declaration on issues of common concern, such as the defence of life.
According to spokespersons for Christodoulos, the Pope was a bit perplexed by the request, perhaps not knowing that the vast museums he technically owns as sovereign of Vatican City have a fragment of the 5th century BC structure.
He said he would consider the request, they said.
Greece has been campaigning for decades to get back all pieces of the Parthenon held in museums and private collections around the world. The
2 500-year-old Acropolis monument is seen as the epitome of the Golden Age of Athens.
Much of a procession frieze from the Parthenon is in the British Museum as part of a collection known as the Elgin Marbles, after the British ambassador who took them from the Acropolis and transported them to Britain in 1802.
The British Museum has repeatedly turned down requests to return them, saying the marbles are in better care in London, safe from the Athens pollution that damaged those left behind.
Greece hopes a museum being built at the foot of the Acropolis, especially to house the marbles, will be ready in 2007.