ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A U.S. museum has returned a valuable 1,000-year-old Christian manuscript to a monastery in northern Greece from which it was looted by Bulgarian forces more than a century ago, along with hundreds of other documents and artifacts.
The 11th-century Gospel was officially unveiled Thursday at the Eikosifinis Monastery in a ceremony attended by Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America Elpidaphorus and representatives of the Museum of the Bible in Washington.
According to the Archdiocese of America, the Greek manuscript is one of the world’s oldest handwritten Gospels and is believed to have been made in southern Italy.
It was donated to the museum in 2014 after being bought at auction. Museum staff later identified it as one of the manuscripts stolen from the monastery in 1917 and informed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, of their desire to return it.
Elpidaphoras on Thursday praised the Museum of the Bible for its “courtesy in locating (the manuscript) and returning it.”
“The historical injustice has been corrected,” he said.
The Gospel was stolen along with 430 other valuable manuscripts by looters from neighboring Bulgaria, who also took hundreds of other religious artifacts. Most are still missing.
The monastery, which dates back to the 8th century, was burned down in 1943 by Bulgarian occupation forces allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. It has since been restored and now functions as a nunnery.
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