Mexico asks pope for loan of ancient books held in Vatican library

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Mexican government has formally asked Pope Francis for the temporary return of several ancient indigenous manuscripts held in the Vatican library ahead of next year’s 500-year anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

The request to allow the texts to be exhibited in Mexico was made in a two-page letter addressed to Pope Francis and posted on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Twitter page on Saturday but dated Oct. 2.

It was delivered to the pope by Lopez Obrador’s wife, Beatriz Gutierrez Muller, who met with him at the Vatican following a meeting she had on Friday with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

One of the three codicies, or books, requested is the Codex Borgia, an especially colorful screen-fold book spread across dozens of pages that depicts gods and rituals from ancient central Mexico.

It is one of the best-preserved examples of pre-conquest Aztec-style writing that exists, after Catholic authorities in colonial-era Mexico dismissed such codicies as the work of the devil and ordered hundreds or even thousands of them burned in the decades following the 1521 conquest.

In the letter, Lopez Obrador requests the Vatican return the Codex Borgia, two other ancient codicies as well as its maps of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan for a one-year loan in 2021.

The nationalist president is planning a series of events to commemorate the anniversary next year. He also reiterated his request that the Catholic Church, as well as reigning Spanish King Philip VI, apologize for atrocities that were committed following the conquest of Mexico, which Lopez Obrador said would mark an “act of historic contrition.”

The Vatican has not yet responded to the request, but its museums and archives have in the past lent out various manuscripts and works of art after similar requests from other countries.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Chris Reese


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