Order of Saint Andrew Calls for the Return of the “Holy Manuscripts Stolen” from Patriarchate

The Order of Saint Andrew issued a statement calling “on Duke University, Princeton University and the Morgan Library to Return Holy Manuscripts Stolen from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

Follows the announcement:

The Order of Saint Andrew calls on Duke University, Princeton University and the Morgan Library to Return Holy Manuscripts Stolen from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

New York, NY
6/11/2018

For more than two years, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been making efforts to recover certain manuscripts that are currently in the collection of three American institutions, but which were stolen during World War I from the Monastery of the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa in Drama, Greece. These manuscripts are currently at Duke University, Princeton University and the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. The Order calls upon these institutions to recognize that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is indeed the rightful owner of these precious and irreplaceable documents, and to return them immediately.

The holy manuscripts at issue, painstakingly written out by hand and diligently preserved for centuries, were stolen in 1917 by marauding Bulgarian troops from the Monastery of the Theotokos Eikosiphoinissa, along with nearly the entire contents of the library.

The volumes were then sold in bookshops all over Europe and either acquired by the institutions or by collectors who then donated them to the institutions.

In matters such as this, the law is clear: a purchaser, even one who had no idea that he is buying stolen goods, cannot acquire valid title to stolen property, and has an obligation to return it. In 2016, when the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago learned that one of the manuscripts in its collection, Eikosiphoinissa Monastery Codex 1424, had also been stolen from the monastery by the Bulgarian guerrillas in 1917, the School’s President, Dr. James Nieman, gave many principled reasons for returning the manuscript to its rightful home. He also movingly noted that when asked that the manuscript be returned, he and his colleagues asked themselves three questions:

“If you could right a wrong you never caused, would you? If you could befriend a stranger, would you? And if you could by a single act show the good news of Jesus to others, would you?”

The answer to these questions for the Lutheran School was a resounding and unqualified yes. The Order hopes that officials at Duke University, Princeton University and the Morgan Library & Museum will also answer these questions affirmatively, and move swiftly now to return to the manuscripts in their collections to their rightful home in the Eikosiphoinissa Monastery.

5 Comments

  1. I am not sure I understand this. The manuscripts were stolen from an Ancient Greek Orthodox monastery near the Bulgarian border. The monastery like many institutions is stavropaegic, it is ultimately under the jurisdiction of the EP. I agree 100% that the manuscripts should be voluntarily returned to the monastery from which they were stolen. I do not believe it is accurate to say they were stolen from the Patriarchate. Is the Patriarch trying to get these ancient manuscripts in Turkey? Putting them at risk by another thief called the Government of Turkey? It looks the archons are ginning up stories to make the EP seem relevant on the world stage. Let’s call a spade a spade, and call for the return of these stolen priceless manuscripts to the ancient monastery from which they were plundered. Everything that has to do with the EP these days is starting to look like a shell game and a publicity stunt.

    1. The article clearly states that the manuscripts should be returned to the monastery. Curiously, though, this is a legal matter. The FBI and various local law enforcement agencies have people who do nothing but track down stolen artwork and other antiquities and return them to the rightful owners. Has anyone taken this situation to the FBI?

      1. That is essentially my point. Why isn’t this going through the FBI or other appropriate legal channels? Why aren’t lawyers making formal legal demands on behalf of Greece and the Monastery under international plunder laws? That is how Cyprus got back it’s priceless 6th century mosaics plundered in north Cyprus.

        My point was this appears to be more of a publicity stunt by the Archons to make the EP seem relevant than a serious legal effort to get these stolen manuscripts back in the monastery where they rightfully belong. The latter is a cause I wholeheartedly endorse.

  2. The manuscripts should be returned to the Monastery from which they were stolen. The location is in Drama,i Greece and Not in Turkey! Do the the three institutions have any other valid and legitimate excuse for not returning the manuscripts?

  3. The article clearly states that the manuscripts should be returned to the monastery. Curiously, though, this is a legal matter. The FBI and various local law enforcement agencies have people who do nothing but track down stolen artwork and other antiquities and return them to the rightful owners. Has anyone taken this situation to the FBI?

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