Believers in Greece, beware! Greek Orthodox Church turns its back to those who choose cremation over traditional burial. In a circular sent to all Metropolises, the Holy Synod of Bishops says that no priest will hold a funeral service and a memorial service to those who explicitly declared they wanted cremation. It is solely up to the local Metropolit to decide whether he will read a prayer (trisagio) in the name of the deceased.
“The Church does not accept for its parish the cremation of the body after death, as the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the constituent element of the human created in the image of God.”
Adding that the Church surrounds the body “with respect and honor as expression of love for its deceased member and as an expression of of faith to the common resurrection,” the circular concludes that.
“The cremation of the body is not consistent with the practice and tradition of the Church, for theological, principal and anthropological reasons.”
The issue of the cremation of the deceased was raised already in 1987, when the then mayor of Athens Miltiades Evert sent a letter to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece. After nearly 20 years – in 2006 – Greek Parliament voted Law (3448/2006, Article 35) allowing cremation for those who were allowed according to their religious beliefs.
However, still in 2014, implementation of the law and cremation is still not possible allegedly over disputes over the location of the facility.
The usual “mean Greeks” have often claimed that the Church opposes the cremation out of fear of losing revenues from the funeral and memorial services.
But if the Greek Orthodox Church considers “the body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit” then religious belief prevails over Freedom of Religion and burial services.
PS On the occasion, we should discuss the resurrection options for the deceased who have been cremated….