Holy Synod says no to crematoria

The Church of Greece’s Holy Synod on Wednesday objected to the creation of crematoria at parish cemeteries in a potential setback to efforts by local authorities in Athens and Thessaloniki to facilitate the practice in Greece.

The Synod said it would brief the government on its objections. New town-planning regulations drafted by the Environment Ministry earlier this year allow crematoria to be built next to churches.

The 12-member council also deemed that the decision for cremation should not be taken by relatives but by the individual him or herself.

The move by the Church of Greece came less than three months after the mayors of Athens and Thessaloniki, Giorgos Kaminis and Yiannis Boutaris, asked the government to introduce legislation removing obstacles for the creation of crematoria, an option that has been enacted by law but never fulfilled amid opposition from the Church, among others.

Greece’s Parliament only passed legislation allowing for the cremation of the dead in Greece in 2006 even though the practice has been permitted since 1884 in Britain, where cremations represent an estimated 50 percent of all funerals, and since 1887 in France. Greek law permits the cremation of people who express their preference for this method instead of burial as long as their religion also allows it but forbids cremation for Orthodox Christians as the Church of Greece objects to the practice for believers.