Greece moves to adopt cremation law

Athens, Greece - Breaking with a centuries-old Orthodox religious tradition, Greece took the final steps on Tuesday toward permitting and creating facilities so that people who choose so can be cremated.

Demand for the option of cremation has risen in recent years due to Greece's overcrowded cemeteries, which force relatives to exhume their loves ones after three years to make way for the next burial.

In a joint decision by the Health, Environment and Interior Ministeries, the final framework that allows for the creation of crematoriums has been approved.

The legislation calls for such facilities to be built next to cemeteries, while municipalities will be responsible for operating them.

Although cremation has been allowed for more than a century in many European countries - since 1884 in the United Kingdom and since 1887 in France - Greece only approved legislation in 2006 allowing for the cremation of the dead.

The previous law banned cremation for other faiths, making matters particularly difficult for the large influx of non-Orthodox immigrants from Asia and other Balkan countries living in Greece who had to send their dead abroad to be cremated.

For decades the Greek Orthodox Church had strongly opposed cremation, saying the body is God's creation and cannot be burned.

The law still forbids cremation for Orthodox Christians. The Church of Greece opposes the practice for believers, arguing that Orthodox traditions only allow for burial.