Country’s first crematorium gets green light

The Municipality of Thessaloniki has sanctioned the construction of the country?s first crematorium, it announced on Thursday, five years after a law allowing cremation was voted through Parliament.

The site selected by municipal authorities is located near Thermi in eastern Thessaloniki, and the total cost, for the study and construction, is estimated at around 3 million euros, which the cash-strapped authority will have to come up with.

Until now, hundreds of bodies have had to be transported abroad for cremation every year, with Bulgaria being the nearest country that offers the option. Other countries where bodies are often taken from Greece include the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

The cost of being cremated abroad, meanwhile, can range anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 euros, and the Thessaloniki Municipality?s decision to OK the construction of a crematorium was in part prompted by a desire to reverse the flow of revenue incurred through cremation abroad.

It is also estimated that the cremation will be a much cheaper option, at under 2,000 euros, than a traditional burial, which starts at well over 3,000 euros.

Lawmakers only approved legislation allowing for the cremation of the dead to take place in Greece in 2006, the first time in the country?s history, even though cremation has been allowed since 1884 in the UK, where cremations are currently estimated to represent 50 percent of total funerals, and since 1887 in France.

The new law permitted the cremation of people who request this method instead of burial as long as their religion also allows it. The law still forbids cremation for Orthodox Christians as the Church of Greece opposes the practice for believers, arguing that Orthodox traditions only allow for burial.