Church respects right to cremate

The Church of Greece yesterday welcomed a new law allowing for the cremation of the non-Orthodox Christian dead and suggested it might be softening its own hardline stance against the procedure. Archbishop Christodoulos said the Church has no reason to ban cremation for the bodies of people from other religions. «As far as the Orthodox Christians are concerned we are in favor of burial and against cremation,» he said. The Orthodox Church says members who request cremation after their deaths can be refused burial ceremonies. But the archbishop said this policy may be up for review. «If necessary, the Holy Synod will meet on the issue,» he added, without giving further details. Greece approved a landmark law on Wednesday that allows the country’s non-Orthodox Christian residents to opt for cremation after death, as long as their religions allow the practice. Greece currently has no cremation facilities, which means that people of some faiths who practice cremation must send their dead abroad for proper preparation before funerals. The issue could divide Greek Orthodox Christians. A growing number of Greeks say they approve of cremation since graveyards in many cities are full. But many Church leaders remain firmly in favor of burial. «We cannot compromise nor can we go back on this issue. If a person denies the basic teachings of the Church, then the Church must deny the funeral,» said Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki.