In Greece, Graves Are Only for Rent

After that you have to watch while they dig up your relatives
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2011 10:49 AM CST
A cemetery is seen in Mytilini, Lesbos, Greece in this file photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – If you’re looking forward to resting in peace someday, try not to kick it in Greece. The country is so drastically short on cemetery space that by law the dead may only rent graves, and then for a maximum of three years, reports Alex Mar of Slate, whose grandparents died there recently. After that, a family member must come watch as the body is exhumed and its bones collapsed into a container around the size of a shoebox.

Mar’s family chose not to witness the exhumation, so the bones were instead dumped in a mass grave and dissolved with chemicals. Europe has a long history of such callous treatment for aging remains, but Mar is outraged anyway by the “emotionally difficult and impractical” system, which gives mourners no choices in how their dead are handled. Until recently cremation was illegal there, because the Greek Orthodox Church believes burial is essential to resurrection—apparently even if it’s temporary.

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