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Politicians and the Church against the construction of crematories

09 March 2012 / 01:03:21  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

A few days ago the municipal council of Markopoulo decided to challenge its unanimous decision from several months ago and declared against the construction of a crematory within the municipality. Although the law, which regulates the establishment of such centres, was passed in 2006, it has not yet been implemented. At the same time, according to data from the Commission for the right of cremating the dead, every day between 2 and 3 corpses in Greece are sent for cremating abroad, mostly in Bulgaria.

Today the Greek Union of Human Rights held a press conference in connection with the events in the otherwise small and modest Markopoulo municipality. Mayor Sotiris Metenitis said that the first reactions had started a week after the decision came out. "There were groups of believers who definitely did not react spontaneously. They gathered 2,500 signatures against the construction of a crematory and exercised daily pressure on all councilors." According to the Mayor pressure was exerted by two main factors: By believers under the influence of the Church and scientists, who are opposing the "unspeakable pollution”, which, according to them, can be caused by the functioning of such a centre.

"Then began the change in the position of municipal members of different parties. Colleagues who had initially voted for the construction of the centre began to hide behind the "majority opinion" as indicated in their letter to me. Municipal councilors from PASOK even spoke of "Auschwitz" as well as financial losses of companies in Markopoulo. Even advisers from our multi-party group withdrew their votes".

During the meeting, which lasted over four hours, it "was simply impossible to discuss things. So many crazy arguments were heard and supporters of the idea were interrupted before they could say anything. I've never seen such bigotry even in stadiums," added Sotiris Metenitis and gave three pieces of advice to Mayors, who would dare to take such actions in their municipalities. The first:, "Let them know that political price is the leading factor. Even young people under 35 years of age immediately changed their position when they saw that because of the reactions they might not be reelected. The second is not to underestimate the reaction of local church authorities and their impact on society, especially in times of crisis like today. The Church is a charitable organisation and thus attracts more people. The third is the conclusion that scientists can provide materials to support positions, pulling society back."

"In 2006 the Greek Union for Human Rights presented a comprehensive bill that included a regulation on the operation of centres for cremation by municipal authorities or private owners. It was approved by parliament from all parties, but at the insistence of the Communist party private entrepreneurs were rejected as an option," said lawyer and member of the Union Ioannis Ktistakis. The odyssey of the legal text just for starters. "It took them six months to form a committee with our participation and with representatives of the Orthodox Church, but of no other religion, that offered a text for a presidential decree. After another four months the decree was sent for approval to the Constitutional Court. The report of the judges pointed out that there shouldn’t be another delay in the recognition of the rights of citizens who want to be cremated. However, it took a full year until a ministerial decision was issued for its implementation. Meanwhile, there were elections. The new government delayed for several months until the decision was issued in 2010." The decision, however, still remains on paper. According to Ioannis Ktistakis the decision of the Constitutional Court defines cremation centres as "moderate pollution" of the environment, so such considerations are irrelevant. He stressed that the law should be corrected, allowing the creation of crematoriums by private owners because "they would be more flexible than the municipal authorities."

The President of the Commission for the right to cremation in Greece Antonis Alakiotis said that she began trying to create centres for cremation back in 1998. "We brought in the proposals in parliament twice, but they were rejected by the ministers of the time, arguing that there is a pending legislation which will regulate the matter. "Things were unblocked in 2006 when the late today and back then Archbishop Christodoulos reassured the Minister of Internal Affairs, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, that the Church will not create barriers to such a law." According to Antonis Alakiotis the most serious obstacle to the creation of centres for cremation in the country is the political system and the fact that politicians remain true to the political price at the expense of public interest, and the proverbial Greek bureaucracy. He welcomed the mayors of Athens and Thessaloniki, where efforts regarding the terrains for the construction of such centres were already under discussion. However it will take at least a year and a half until the tender for the construction of the building and it is not clear when the centre will begin to function.

"We will intensify our pressure and one of our arguments will be that the Greek Orthodox churches in other countries like the USA, Canada and other countries permit a funeral of the deceased, who wished to be cremated when they were alive. All Orthodox churches in other countries do it without causing any social distress."

Tags: Greece cremation Orthodox church Markopoulo
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