ATHENS, Greece, March 6 (AP) -- Greece's conservative Orthodox Christian Church will ease strict rules on funeral rites for suicide victims and infants who have not been baptized, its governing body said Tuesday.

A decision taken by the permanent Holy Synod, a 12-member body of senior clerics that runs the day-to-day affairs of the Orthodox Church, allows priests more leeway in burying people who have committed suicide and for infants who die before they are baptized.

It came after a series of recent highly publicized incidents involving priests who have refused to conduct funeral rites for infants and some suicide victims.

``Some incidents have upset the entire church of Greece and the Holy Synod decided not to ignore it but deal with it,'' Metropolitan Efstathios, a Holy Synod spokesman said.

According to the church, suicide is considered a cardinal sin and people who have taken their own lives cannot receive a church burial. Infants who have not been baptized are not considered to be part of the church and normally do not receive an Orthodox burial.

Under the new guidelines, priests may bury suicide victims if they are determined not to be ``sane'' when they carry out the act, if they were considered insane before taking their lives, if they kill themselves accidentally, or if they manage to repent before dying.

The sanity clause is considered so broad that it would allow a local metropolitan, or bishop, to allow the burial of most suicide victims.

According to Metropolitan Efstathios, the guidelines also consider infants born into Orthodox Christian families ``as candidate members'' of the church and introduce a special ceremony for their burial.

He said the guidelines were similar to others already being used by many of the 16 separate churches worldwide that represent more than 200 million Orthodox Christians.

In the past, many Greek priests often ignored the rules and conducted funeral services for both suicide victims and infants that had not been baptized.

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