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Other provisions

Death

The Hellenic Society of Cremation was founded in 1997 with the main goal of legalising cremation and pursuing the establishment of a cremation centre, primarily public. Cremation became legal in Greece in 2006 under law 3448/2006 (Official Gazette, A 57, article 57). With a new legislation that was introduced in 2014 (4277/2014 Official Gazette, A 156, articles 48-49), a new effort has been made to finally establish cremation centres. Since 2006, a number of initiatives have been taken to get local authorities in several Greek cities to establish crematoria (e.g., Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra). However, due to the explicit and implicit reactions from the Orthodox Church at synod level but also of certain bishops at local level, the few initially positive decisions by certain mayors and municipal councils were overturned and the establishment of a public crematorium is still pending.

Because of the incapacity of the local authorities to go beyond Church reactions and proceed with the construction of a crematorium, the left-wing government of SYRIZA introduced in July 2017 a legal provision under which the private sector could also establish and operate a cremation centre. As a consequence of that, in 2019, the first private crematorium was inaugurated in Ritsona, a region near to Athens. According to the official data, the number of cremations is around 3% of the total number of annual deaths. In 2021, a documentary was produced to present the history of cremation in Greece and the success of the creation of the first cremation centre after more than 20 years of tireless efforts Currently, it is estimated that a second cremation centre would not be economically viable.

Civil funerals are legal since 2016 under law 4368/2016 (Official Government Gazette, A 21, article 35A). However, since many people who choose a civil funeral prefer to be buried and not cremated, the facilities for civil funerals in cemeteries are inappropriate to hold such ceremonies (for example, they are very small or non_existent).

Another crucial issue which is still unresolved and a matter of discussion is the lack of a Muslim cemetery in the broader Athens region. Muslim cemeteries function in Thrace, Northern Greece, and the islands of Kos and Rhodes, where the native Muslim community lives. However, the majority of Muslim immigrants and refugees live in Athens and when someone passes away, their friends and family have to transfer them either to Thrace or to their country of origin, which is time and money consuming. In 2005, the Orthodox Church offered a piece of land in Schisto, a region near Piraeus, close to Athens, but due to bureaucratic issues and perhaps a lack of political will, this offer remained unexploited.

D 27 July 2023    AAlexandros Sakellariou

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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