The Greek Orthodox Church has broken its silence to support a plan to expand the Botany cemetery into the neighbouring Chinese market gardens.
The parish priest at St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Kingsford and spokesman for Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, Father Steven Scoutas has become a voice for the concerns about diminishing burial space.
“It’s of great concern to the church that vegetables are regarded to be of greater heritage value than that of human beings,” he said. “Nothing is more sacred than the human person.”
Father Steven, who blamed consecutive governments for failing to secure additional land for the cemetery during the past 30 years, said thousands of his parishioners had signed a petition on the issue.
“The Greek Orthodox Church has voiced serious concerns for many years about this acute shortage of burial spaces. Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Church in Australia, again raised the matter in 2006 with the State Government.
“This is vital, not only for Christians, but for our brothers and sisters of other religions as well.
“The deceased should be afforded every dignity. Their personal contribution to the shaping of the nation and the heritage of the world should not be devalued.”
A shortage of space in Sydney’s east has led management of the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park, which incorporates Botany cemetery, to submit a plan to the State Government to acquire 60 per cent of the adjacent heritage-listed market gardens, a 7ha slice of crown land off Bunnerong Rd in Matraville.
The submission has divided the community between those who would prefer to see the land remain with the living, the three families who cultivate the gardens, and those more concerned about the diminishing space to bury their loved ones.
Chinese community and heritage groups are opposing the planned resumption of the market gardens at La Perouse for use as a cemetery.
The land on which the market gardens sit has been used for food production for more than 150 years, and managed by Chinese gardeners for more than a century.
The management of the cemetery has claimed that without the land transfer it will run out of burial space within 12 years.
The situation has been worsened by cultural sensitivities surrounding burial practices. Cremation is forbidden by some religions.