Vatican returns three ancient mummies to Peru

As Pope Francis meets with Peru's Minister of Foreign Affairs, César Landa Arroyo, the Vatican signs an agreement to repatriate three Peruvian mummies dating from pre-Hispanic civilizations.

By Sebastián Sansón Ferrari

The repatriation of three ancient mummies from Peru corresponds to the spirit of integration between cultures on which the Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum was founded.

The Anima Mundi is a section of the Vatican Museums that preserves thousands of prehistoric remains, dating back more than two million years, from all over the world.

On Monday, 17 October, the President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Cardinal Fernando Vérgez signed an agreement with Peru’s Minister of Foreign Affair, César Rodrigo Landa Arroyo formalizing the repatriation.

Meeting with the press
Meeting with the press

Cultural appreciation

According to a statement from the Vatican Museums, these historical artifacts will be studied in order to determine the period of origin of the mummies. However, it is known that they were found at an altitude of three thousand metres in the Peruvian Andes, along the course of the Ucayali River, a tributary of the Amazon.

As Minister Landa explained in a meeting with the press following his audience with the Pope, the agreement completed achieved on Monday reflects the shared feeling that, more than objects, they are the remains of human beings that should be appreciated in the place from which they came.

The mummies were loaned for the Universal Exhibition of 1925, after which they remained in the museums. The situation became known several years ago, according to the Minister, and the Vatican’s willingness to return them was made concrete during the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Mr. Landa points out that Peru has been recovering archaeological material from the United States and Chile, among other countries, and hopes to continue along these lines.

Ancient Peruvian mummies
Ancient Peruvian mummies

Exchange with the Successor of Peter

According to the Foreign Minister, during the cordial meeting with the Bishop of Rome and the Secretariat of State, relations between the Republic of Peru and the Holy See were discused, with an emphasis on the desire to re-establish dialogue and harmony in the nation as the basis for governance and respect for human rights.

Mr. Landa said he appreciated the Popes’s “magnanimous gesture” in desiring to receive him.

“The relationship between the Peruvian State and the Church is growing stronger because Peru is a country with a great faith, founded on the cultural, religious, and ethical contribution of the Catholic Church, which allows it to face challenges and turbulent times, always seeking the best, which is the common good,” said Mr. Landa.

He also expressed his hopes and prayers for the improvement of the socio-political situation in Peru. “After the international conflicts and the pandemic, social gaps have opened up,” the Minister noted, saying he considered that this context calls for the government and the opposition to work together to guarantee basic needs.

Mr. Landa stressed the importance of dialogue and harmony “as a task that invokes the need to talk and to listen,” because without consensus, the solution to the most pressing problems is delayed.

In the conversation with the Pope, they also discussed the importance of strengthening the links that are maintained at a high level in terms of support for the Church’s social work, and its efforts in the fields of education and health. “We will continue to talk to see concrete ways of strengthening the efforts of the Church and the State,” concluded Mr. Landa.

Pope Francis receives Peru's Minister for Foreign Affairs, César Rodrigo Landa Arroyo
Pope Francis receives Peru's Minister for Foreign Affairs, César Rodrigo Landa Arroyo

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17 October 2022, 16:20