Plans by municipal authorities in the western port of Patra to build a crematorium in an industrial park south of the city center have sparked protests from locals and the Church.
The objections Thursday were voiced as the Church’s ruling body blasted a government bill on funeral practices stipulating that individuals can decide the type of last rites provided it is in line with public order and health regulations as well as common morals.
“The Holy Synod refuses to accept that it is dignified for the dead to be burned in an oven and to be crushed in a mixer and it does not discern any particular differences in the modern cremation and waste recycling process,” the Synod said in a letter.
During a meeting with Patra officials Thursday, community representatives complained that the cremation facility will lie within 200 meters of a nursery school, a primary school and several residences.
“Our neighborhood is being constantly downgraded,” said a local. “In the end they will turn us into third-class citizens.”
Meanwhile, in a letter to Patra Mayor Costas Peletidis, Archbishop Chrysostomos of Patra said that the Church is opposed to cremation on theological, humanitarian and canonical grounds. Officials, the cleric said, should rather be concerned with improving the lives of the living.
The mayor defended the project. “Everyone has the right to decide on the way in which their body will be disposed of,” he said. “The municipal authority respects people’s religious convictions and makes no discrimination on the basis of this criterion,” he said.
Building the facility, which authorities hope to fund with EU money, is expected to cost 2 million euros. The cost is expected to be recuperated in four years.