Greece Still Awaits First Crematorium

GREECE-RELIGION-TOURISM-TRAVELThe refusal of the Greek Orthodox Church to allow cremation has sparked a debate in the country.

With urban cemeteries filling so fast that bodies are dug up after three years and put in ossuaries so plots can be reused, Greece gave approval for cremation in 2006. Although Athens gave licensing authority to local governments, no one has been able to get past opposition from the powerful church.

“Cremation is a practice not accepted by the Orthodox Church and teachings,” Haris Konidaris, spokesman for Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece and the Church told SETimes. “It’s not a question of dogma. We recognize only burial for the protection of the body. Cremation would be violence (against the body),” he added.

“This should be handled by the church in a more compassionate way … the Greek Orthodox Church has to take seriously into account the will of the believer for disposal after death,” Emanuel Perselis, a professor of theology at the University of Athens told SETimes.

When Platon Tinios’ 86-year-old mother died in Greece last year, he had to go to Bulgaria to fulfill her last wish to be cremated. Tinios, an economics professor and one-time prime ministry advisor, took it in stride. “She liked trips, so we took her to Sofia,” he told SETimes, smiling at the idea. “She was cremated there and she came back in an urn.”

Two to three bodies are transported for cremation daily to Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and the UK, at costs ranging from 2,500-6,000 euros, said Antonis Alakiotis, head of the Committee for the Right of Cremation in Greece. The committee unites Catholics, Hindus and other religions representatives.

If cremation was allowed domestically, the cost would be about 2,000 euros, compared to traditional funerals which typically cost a minimum of 3,000 euros, about $3,930.  “The reasons we don’t have a crematorium is that it has to be in a cemetery or next to it and most of the cemeteries don’t have the space … but also because the power of the church is so strong that no one wants to do it,” Alakiotis told SETimes.

Critics also said priests don’t want to lose a lucrative source of income by presiding at funerals.  “The church doesn’t want it because funerals and memorial services bring a lot of money,” Frosso Antoniou, 52, a language teacher told SETimes. “Cremation is more beneficial to the friends and family.”

But others disagree.  “I don’t agree with cremation,” Panos Georgiou, a retiree told SETimes. “God said we are mud and we return to mud. Burying is God’s will.”

Ari Caratzas, a New York and Athens-based publisher who specialises in religion, told SETimes that cremation was a practice allowed in ancient Greece, but “those people who are promoting cremation are consciously promoting violating customs because of the way they see the world. They have a strange idea that somehow our culture is backwards.”

It’s been 18 months since officials in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, voted to permit construction of a crematorium, with little progress since.  Last year, a campaign by Markopoulou Mayor Sotiris Methenitis to put a crematorium there failed when the city council overturned its unanimous verdict in favour of the project after a strong lobbying campaign by church officials. “I thought that allowing the crematorium to be built, the first one in Greece, would bring to this small community an air of modernization,” Methenitis said.

Proponents of cremation have found the church a formidable opponent in a country where as many as 96 percent of people say they are Greek Orthodox.  Priests will refuse to perform funeral services for anyone who wants to be cremated and so intense are the feelings against it by opponents that they booed proponents and scientists out of the Markopoulou City Hall.

“No theological view should affect or interfere with a person’s right to do whatever he or she wishes with their remains,” Methenitis said.

(Reused by permission of Southeast European Times,


  1. The crematorium should be allowed but they should force Greek priests to do rites against their religious beliefs.

    That said, big surprise that us military funded is commisioning American Andy to write yet another anti-Greek article. I have to ask though how is it our alleged allies have never commissioned any Greek to write about the rampent histoical fraud and irredentism going on in FYROM? How is it US military funded hasn’t written a single article mentioning this “little” detail?

    “This (US) government considers talk of Macedonian “nation”, Macedonian
    “Fatherland”, or Macedonia “national consciousness” to be
    unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees
    in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against
    Greece” – US State Department Dec, 1944. Foreign Relations Vol. VIII
    Washington D.C. Circular Airgram – 868.014/26

  2. Take this for your beloved “American nation”, it’s the stolen fatherland of the 500 nations and does not belong to European mass-murdering invaders with their unjustified demagoguery. Just like the other European metastasis the US is an illegal state of white thugs and their uncle toms and just should shut up and go back home.

  3. My disowned (on their part) children have vowed to dump me in the trash labeled as’John Doe’ when I kark it.

  4. I LOVE IT— The Corrupt Colaition Gov’t is big on implementing all the TROIKA’s austerity measures “immediately” without fail, but to get the greedy Greek Chruch to comply with the EU LAW about creamation, the Politicans from PASOK & ND do nothing at all— OUTRAGEOUS & more obsene rotten behaviour from these scum!

  5. This article is badly informed! Greeks do not dig up the bodies of the passed, out of lack of space, it is part of the Orthodox Religion to do so! Do your homework next time! More facts, less propaganda please!

  6. Hey Skopian, given up pretending to care about leftist and illegals? Come on, don’t give up. Keep trying to fool our leftist morons. Your conscious deceptions only reinforces neither of you have a moral or intellectual leg to stand on.

  7. American isn’t even a “people’. It is a political ideology that tries to assimilate various unique ethnic groups into the American
    political ideology,

    Europeans (mostly British and Spanish imperialists) invaded the Americas and committed countless acts of ethnic cleansing against the native peoples when imperialism in fashion. This would have been called genocide today. When no one could gain the upper hand the imperialists ended up mixing and forming an American identity.

    Now the children of these genocidal imperialists are trying to spread their ethnic cleansing ideology to the rest of the world. multiculturalism is just word play for neo-Imperialism. Its an attempt to wipe out indigenous people around the world (e.g someone from Africa could call themselves “Chinese” simply by moving there)

    Perhaps the best long term solution to this problem is the partial dismantling of the USA If parts of it was returned to natives peoples, the US would go back to being a normal country that minds its own business rather than behaving like imperialists trying to control the world.

  8. That’s pretty damn funny, since the natives were enslaving and murdering each other way before the Spanish arrived. The key to success for Spanish colonization was allying with these groups who were conquered by various empires and then overthrowing them.

  9. Well its written by good’ol Andy, most of his contributions are questionable or downright misleading.

  10. When I visited my father’s village I looked for relatives in the cemetery. Not one with my surname and when I asked I was told that after X years the bodies are dug up and dumped in the woods to re use the plots. I was so disgusted. In Australia we have crematoria and while I am Orthodox as a Civil celebrant I have performed funeral rites for many who were cremated. The Church IS powerful but I never hear of them fighting to help people only to preserve that which is theirs and to prove that point, look up how they officially acted towards the War of Independence before, during and after. There were great exceptions like Archbishop Germanos but the Church itself was against eleftheria. The Church needs to start thinking and caring about the nation and the people. If it does not it will lose them as it is here in Australia


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