Kykko Bishop Nikiforos came under fire on Wednesday over an undignified altercation with a journalist whose questions on the Ukraine church issue apparently irritated the cleric.
The angry exchange after the Holy Synod met to discuss the archbishop’s recognition of the independence of the Orthodox church of Ukraine, prompted the Cyprus Journalists Union to issue an announcement branding the bishop’s behaviour as “unacceptable” and urging him to apologise to the journalist and to public opinion.
Nikiforos later issued a written statement expressing his deepest regret over the incident and apologizing to the public and to the journalist, who he nevertheless accused of being provocative and insulting.
The bishop was initially annoyed after veteran journalist Aristides Vikettos interrupted his statements for a clarification.
On the way out, Vikettos asked something else, irking the bishop.
“Shut up,” Nikiforos snapped.
Vikettos asked the bishop politely not to use that language.
Nikiforos then moved towards the journalist, saying “you shouldn’t intervene …(inaudible).”
At the same time Tamassos Bishop Isaias and a member of staff moved to restrain and calm down Nikiforos who turned around to leave as Vikettos said “you think you’re someone.”
That infuriated Nikiforos who turned around but was stopped. As he walked out, he called Vikettos a miscreant, angering the journalist who was shouting and refusing to calm down.
The union said the verbal incident was ‘sad’ and ‘condemnable’ and violated the rules of good behaviour.
It said that the bishop had not only told the journalist to shut up, but used two decorative adjectives the union did not want to reproduce.
“However onerous, pressing and persistent the questions posed by our colleague Vikettos may have been, the behaviour of Bishop Nikiforos cannot be justified,” It said.
The bishop’s behaviour was condemnable and unacceptable and he should find the courage to apologise both to the journalist he insulted and to public opinion which he offended with his stance, it said.
In a written statement the bishop apologised to both the TV public and the journalist saying that he should have held his temper and not followed the journalist’s ‘improper’ behaviour.
The bishop said Vikettos had repeatedly interrupted him, suggested he was citing Russian rules and ironically claiming that the bishop aspired to be the new Mark of Ephesus, who was the only Eastern bishop who refused to sign a compromise formula with the Catholic Church in the 15th century.
“It is a fact that his (the journalist’s) improper, provocative and insulting behaviour irritated me and I behaved improperly, something which does not characterise me. This may be due to fatigue and tension from the meeting of the Holy Synod,” he said.
But he added that he did not want to proffer an excuse, since as a bishop he should have not lost his temper.