From the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe
Sir, - Last week, Andrew George led a cross-party group of
MPs in support of an Early Day parliamentary motion calling upon
the Government to engage in the "gracious act" of returning the
Parthenon sculptures removed from Athens 210 year ago by Lord
I believe that members of the Church of England should take a
national lead in showing their support for this motion.
The sculptures were removed by Lord Elgin in questionable
circumstances. It was, for a long time, maintained that Greece did
not have proper facilities to look after the marbles and that they
were safer in the British Museum. Greece has, however, recently
constructed an excellent new Parthenon Museum, and this argument no
The strength of feeling in Greece in relation to the sculptures
is very high, as I was reminded on a recent visit to Athens. It
would not be much of an exaggeration to make a comparison with how
British people might feel if Elgin's near-contemporary Napoleon had
beaten Wellington at Waterloo, struck a deal with the custodians of
the Tower of London, and taken the crown jewels off to the Louvre
for safekeeping. The Parthenon is the most important ancient
building of Athens, and the sculptures are its crowning jewels.
At the present time, the people of Greece are suffering, with
real poverty, dangerously high youth-unemployment, and huge debts.
Our own chaplaincy in Athens is doing all it can to work with the
Orthodox Church in bringing help to those in the greatest need. The
return of the sculptures would be a tonic to national morale, and
heal a gaping wound in Anglo-Greek relations.
It would be highly appropriate if members of the Church of
England could be seen to be associated with such a "gracious
Robert Gibraltar in Europe
47 rue Capitaine Crespel - boîte 49
1050 Brussels, Belgium