The early years
The study of history shows that burial and cremation of the dead are both found in ancient Greece. In Iliad one can find references to archaeological findings with ashes, shrines and more. After the emergence of Christianity in Greece, burial was imposed. The notion that the dead should be buried is not a dogma, but a result of long-standing practice. It is custom.
20 th century
The first efforts to restore cremation started in the years 1912 – 1917 by the Medical Association of Athens that publicly supported cremation. In 1943, the Court of First Instance of Athens issued the first rejection, on the grounds that cremation was contrary to Greek morals. In 1944 a second request for a club in favor of cremation was rejected on the same grounds. However, in 1946 the “Scientific Society for the Study of the Various Systems for the Treatment of the Dead”, founded by members of the Athens Medical Association obtained the approval of the Court of First Instance and established the first association for cremation.
In 1960, following the death the cremation of Dimitris Mitropoulos, who had received international fame both as a major conductor and composer of the 20th century, the Greek Orthodox Church’s refusal to offer a funeral ceremony created great disruption both to the Church and society. Approved theologians differ from the official approach of the Church, arguing that the issue of the choice of burial or cremation is not a dogmatic one but a matter of tradition, so the Church should not reject those who choose cremation based on their consciousness. Mobilization of municipalities and the first unions Between 1986 and 1988 some municipalities, such as the Municipality of Kallithea, the Municipality of Agios Dimitrios and the Municipality of Zografou in Athens, were in favor of cremation and asked the Ministry of Interior to assist them in the construction of a cremation center. The answer was negative due to the lack of legislative framework. In 1986 a citizens’ movement called the “Friends of Cremation” filed a petition for the establishment of a club at the Athens Court of First Instance. The latter rejected the application as “contrary to Greek morals”. The “Friends of Cremation” movement, under the active chairmanship of Mrs Hara Halkias, has taken many initiatives to date and has helped to promote the idea in Greek society. In 1987 an application was filed to establish an association called the “Odyssey” with similar purpose. This was dismissed by decision 4316/1987 of the Multilingual Court of First Instance of Athens, with similar reasoning. However, the decision was appealed by the members of the union, and their request to establish a union was approved. Thus, after a two-year adventure, the “Odyssey” was formed and chaired chaired by the well-known activist Niki Leontiou, Vice-President Ioannis Rega, then Deputy Mayor of Zografos. At the same time the “Panhellenic Association for the Cremation of the Dead” was founded. In 1987, the mayor of Athens, Mr M. Evert, reinstated the issue by formally requesting the Holy Synod and the state to allow the cremation of the heatwave victims that struck Athens, if they so desired. The Church denied the request. In 1997, a committee was set up to establish a center for the cremation of the dead in Greece, for people whose religious beliefs allowed it. This committee has been a member of the I.C.F. (World Incineration Organization) since 2000. In 2001, the committee set up a non-profit company entitled ‘Commission on the Right to Incinerate the Dead in Greece’ and its aims included the construction of a cremation center.
The Hellenic Cremation Society
The Hellenic Cremation Society was established in 1997 in order to create the legislative framework to enable cremation in Greece. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of its members for more than two decades the one and only in Greece Cremation Center opened its doors in Ritsona in late September 2019.
Many Greeks, regardless of their religious beliefs, have opted for cremation although until recently it was not possible in Greece; Maria Callas, Loukianos Kelaidonis, Manos Eleftheriou, Dimitris Mitropoulos, Pavlos Moschidis, Giorgos Moschidis, Arleta, Alexandros Katsantonis, Andreas Voutsinas, Minas Hatzisavvas, Ioannis Voglis and Thanos Mikroutsikos.