Over crowdedness, exorbitant burials and a worsening economy are some of the few reasons why Greeks are exhuming dead bodies of their relatives.
Over the last 50 years, Greece's urban population has exploded. More than half of the Mediterranean country's people are now concentrated in the two biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. This has left cemeteries confined with no room for expansion. In a state like this, people are left with no choice but to bury the dead in the graves which have been most recently made vacant.
To make the practice manageable, graves are leased for only three years for one dead occupant. Once those years are up, the relatives are required to pay more for the space or simply exhume their loved ones.
The bones and remains of those exhumed are washed and then kept in designated cabinets in a place called ossuary which is more like an archive of the dead. But the procedure incurs a big rental fee and for the people of Greece, already under the burden of years of economic crisis, it can cost too much, particularly if they have more than one deceased relative.
If relatives don't show up for an exhumation or stop paying rent at the ossuary, the bones are thrown into a vast mass grave called the "digestive pit."
This is horrific. I cannot imagine being forced to exhume my family or have their bones tossed in a pit. https://t.co/azjJrgxwsR— Sarah Kester (@slkester) November 26, 2015
Most European countries have already introduced the option of cremation to address the issue of over crowdedness in cemeteries with over 70% of people opting for the rites in Denmark and the U.K.
Nearly a decade ago, cremation was illegal in Greece because it was rigorously opposed by the influential Orthodox Church, according to which a body must be buried in order to be resurrected at the second coming. Archbishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, argues cremation is the rendering of a human being into nothingness.
"The Orthodox Church cannot accept cremation. Are we going to deny the teachings of the gospel after 2,000 years?" he says.
The ban was lifted in 2006, however, Greece still hasn’t constructed any crematoria which is why many people are forced to opt for exhumation.
You May Want To Read: IN PHOTOS: Greece Tries To Recover After The Violent Clashes In Athens