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1 March 2006 : Greece legalises cremation

On 1 March 2006, the Greek Parliament adopted a new law legalising cremation of the dead in Greece. The bill was introduced by 10 MPs from conservative, socialist and left-wing parties. There is increasing demand in Greece for cremation as cemeteries are often overcrowded. The law is a result of repeated pressure coming primarily from Human rights’ groups, who argue that cremation constitutes an essential component of religious freedom. This is particularly important given the growing number of non-Christian foreigners who presently reside in Greece.
Cremation has therefore become a legal option, basically for people whose religious beliefs allow them to be cremated (Greeks or foreigners). In this case, cremation is allowed, provided there is a written request by the dead person or a family member. This option however poses difficulties for people who, by reason of their religious belonging, can not be cremated (mainly the Orthodox). The difficulty arises from the fact that the law of 1 March 2006 linked permission to be cremated to religious belonging. The Greek Church is historically opposed to cremation and Archbishop Christodolos has firmly reaffirmed that the Orthodox faith provides only for the interment of the dead. It is not uncommon for Orthodox priests to refuse to perform the last rites for persons having chosen cremation (or for that matter, people who opted for a civil wedding without having a religious ceremony).
There are no crematoriums in Greece since cremation has up to this point been illegal. Those who choose to be cremated must therefore make provision for their bodies to be taken abroad (generally to Romania or Bulgaria). Plans are currently underway to construct two crematoriums in Greece (one in Athens and the other in Thessalonica).

- February 2007 : creation of the first crematorium in Greece

In February 2007, the Greek government announced its plan to construct a crematorium by 2009. It will probably be erected at the first cemetery located at the centre of Athens. The place of construction has been contested as the crematorium should be planted in non-residential areas of the city for environmental reasons.
The Greek Church has long been opposed to cremation and the Archbishop Christodoulos confirms that the Orthodox faith authorises only the burial of the dead. The Orthodox clergy has, on many occasions, refused to celebrate the funeral service of people who chose to be cremated.
However, according to some members of the clergy, the Church of Greece is still to revisit the issue in the spring of 2007, taking into consideration the demographic diversity of the foreign population living in Greece, lack of burial plots in the cemeteries and the practice of cremation in the neighbouring countries.

D 25 mai 2016    ALina Molokotos-Liederman

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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