The father of the groom whose brother was allegedly assaulted by a priest as he carried out a wedding ceremony in Paphos on Saturday, described the incident as barbaric and said the church was trying to make light of it.
“Unchristian, barbaric and shameful, not only for the family and guests attending the ceremony but for the church,” said Paphos DISY municipal councillor George Sophocleous as he described what happened at his son’s wedding at the chapel of Stavros Minthis in Tsada.
“They are busy trying to make light of the whole incident, but that is what you would expect,” he told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
Police began taking statements from witnesses on Monday and Sophocleous said he intended to take the case to the courts. It is customary in some parts of Cyprus for the groom to have his back slapped during the ‘dance of Isaias’ part of the ceremony by his best man or others attending, in this case the groom’s 22-year-old brother.
It was this the priest apparently took offence over, and allegedly put down the gospel, then pushed and punched the 22-year-old in the face. The priest then carried on with the sacrament after the incident and concluded the wedding.
According to Sophocleous, the church is supporting the priest on the grounds that he told the guests before the ceremony to refrain from the tradition.
The Bishop of Paphos, Georgios, speaking from Crete where he is attending preparations for the Great Orthodox Synod, said that he had not yet talked to the priest allegedly involved in the incident, but said the allegations would be investigated.
He expressed his support and trust in the young priest who was ordained some four years ago, saying he had instructed priests carrying out weddings to stop the sacrament in such cases.
He described the back-smacking tradition as something established in the Ottoman era and foreign to the Orthodox Christian faith. Sophocleous believes the full force of the law should be applied as it is simply a case of violent behaviour, carried out by a clergyman against a 22-year-old youngster.
He said it should make no difference in the eyes of the law who carried out the assault. The victim was taken to A&E at Paphos general hospital where he was treated for a facial injury. The couple received their marriage certificate. According to Sophocleous the whole incident was recorded on the wedding video but has not yet been released. It has been reported that representatives of the family are due to meet with the archbishop on Tuesday.