The Vatican returned a fragment of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece yesterday in a move that may increase pressure on the British Museum to return the so called Elgin Marbles.
The fragment, returned for a one year loan is one of three in the Vatican Museum's huge collection of antiquities, AdKronos International reports.
It was returned after a request by the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christopoulos at a meeting with Pope Benedict in 2006.
"This is a gesture from one of the most important museums in Europe," Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said.
"It should be seen as an example for other museums to follow to return the Parthenon Marbles."
The Vatican's fragment measures 24 by 25 centimetres and depicts the head of a man carrying a tray.
For years Greece has called on Britain to hand back the fifth century BC sculptures currently housed in a special gallery at the British Museum.
The friezes, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from the Acropolis by Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, more than 200 years ago.
The 2,500 year old sculptures, depicting 160 metres of religious and mythological scenes, have been held by the British Museum since 1816 after they were sold by Elgin.
Giandomenico Spinola, head of the Vatican Museum's classical antiquities department, said it was too early to say whether the loan would be renewed.
Greece: Vatican returns piece of ancient sculpture to Athens (AdKronos International, 5/11/08)
Parthenon marbles (Wikipedia)