Some members of Australia’s Greek community have raised concerns around the necessity of a ‘Certificate of death and funeral service’ being issued by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia (GOAA).
According to an encyclical issued by the GOAA and seen by The Greek Herald, the certificate was first introduced on July 1, 2022, after Archbishop Makarios of Australia and bishops under him unanimously decided:
“To issue, after each funeral service, a funeral certificate, at the request of many of our faithful, for cases relating to inheritance for which there must be proof of identity (especially, when the name has changed for the Australian state).”
To date this encyclical has not been publicly announced by the GOAA despite its active website and social media presence. Churches and funeral homes were informed and are now responsible for explaining the certificate to the Greek Orthodox community.
The certificate costs $250 and is additional to the $650 now required for a funeral service to be conducted at a local Greek Orthodox church.
It is issued by the priest after the burial of a loved one to confirm the death, funeral and burial of an Orthodox Christian, and enters their name in the death register of the GOAA.
Use of the certificate:
Probate solicitors in Australia and Greece told The Greek Herald the GOAA’s ‘Certificate of death and funeral service’ is not an officially recognised document to prove identity for inheritance.
The certificate is not recognised by Greek Consulates around Australia, as they require a death certificate from Australian state authorities to register the death of an individual with Greek citizenship.
This has raised concerns for some members of Australia’s Greek community, who have questioned why they need to pay $250 for a certificate which is not officially recognised in Australia nor Greece.
Others have asked what happens to those Greek Orthodox people who died prior to the introduction of the certificate on July 1, 2022, and whether they will also be recognised by the GOAA. Currently, the Archdiocese does not hold any formal records of Greek Orthodox deaths prior to that date.
Louise Mileto, a primary school teacher from Sydney, recently managed funerals costs for her late father. In an interview with The Greek Herald, Louise said she was confused when she saw the certificate added to funeral costs.
“I was shocked. I’m like, ‘Why? What is this?’” Louise said. “What’s that going to do for me?”
A source from the funeral home industry in Australia, who conducts numerous Greek Orthodox funerals, said many families share Louise’s sentiment.
“All of our families have that sideways look like, ‘What’s this all about?’ and I don’t blame them,” the source said.
‘I feel robbed’:
A further concern raised by members of the Greek community is the price of the certificate itself. In some cases, the $250 is five times the amount compared to a government-issued death certificate in Australia and Greece.
A Greek death certificate is similarly inexpensive, costing 30 euros which is roughly $49.10 AUD.
There is also no other religious group in Australia which charges families for a ‘Certificate of death and funeral service,’ with the United Church of Australia, the Catholic and Anglican churches all relying on state government death certificates.
Louise said she “feels robbed” and the GOAA’s certificate was unjustified and unfair.
“All these families who can’t afford everyday groceries for their families, now can’t even afford to bury their loved ones,” she said.
Funeral home directors explained how in instances where families have questioned the certificate, they have been directed to refer them to their local parish priest. In most of these cases, the price of the certificate has been waived.
‘To build revenue’:
Since the introduction of the funeral certificate on July 1, 2022, the price of a Greek Orthodox funeral service is now $900.
A report issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in August 2022, revealed there were 1,214 deaths per 100,000 Greek Orthodox people in Australia within a 15-month period.
According to the 2021 census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are currently 390,961 Greek Orthodox faithful in Australia.
Based off this official government data, the GOAA is estimated to earn approximately $1.2 million in revenue from the certificate in a period of 15 months. This figure could be higher as the data from the report only included deaths of Greek Orthodox people from two government datasets.
“Well, there’s only one explanation for it – to build revenue,” a funeral director said.
Louise said she wanted to speak out against the certificate because people “don’t have a voice.”
“How they are going about with everything, in general, is turning the younger generation away from the church,” she concluded.
*The Greek Herald has contacted the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia for comment on these community concerns. At the time of publication, there had been no response.