Turkey presents historic Jesus, saint icons to Istanbul patriarch
At a ceremony at the Çanakkale Troy Museum in northwestern Turkey, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy presented the icons to Bartholomew, demonstrating Turkey's protective attitude towards the nation's cultural assets regardless of the belief, language, or race involved.
The 12 artifacts, including depictions of Jesus and Christian saints, had previously been stolen from historical churches on Tenedos Island in the Aegean Sea.
During his speech Ersoy said the artifacts were recovered in Operation Anadolu (Anatolia), a comprehensive effort by counter-smuggling teams conductedin Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey simultaneously.
He added that as many as 4,122 historical artifacts were seized in the operation before they were smuggled abroad.
Ersoy further emphasized that Turkey would remain determined to fight such crimes.
The artifacts were stolen from historical churches, including the Panagia Kimisis Church, in the Zeytinli, Eski Bademli, and Dereköy neighborhoods of the island.
In 2007, the local gendarmerie command conducted a successful operation to get back the icons.
Kept under protection at the Çanakkale Archeology Museum due to controversies over ownership, the cultural assets were recovered by the ministry through a court challenge.