Bishop Nikiforos of Kykkos, who told a reporter to “shut up” on Wednesday as cameras were rolling, has issued an apology, saying he regretted his behaviour, with the incident revealing tensions remain high over the Ukrainian issue.
Nikiforos, who emerged from a Holy Synod meeting on Wednesday, was among a number of bishops who did not approve of Archbishop Chrysostomos II’s move to extend blessings to Epiphanius, referring to him as head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church during a service last month.
Only the primate of all Cyprus could extend blessings to the head of another church, but the move was seen as highly controversial on the island, with many dissenting bishops voicing their disapproval. Last year Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I granted independence to Ukraine’s new Orthodox Church, severing its centuries-long ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which immediately cut ties with the Patriarchate.
'I don’t want to use an excuse. I am a Bishop of the Ordthodox Church and I should have remained calm'
During an interview with journalists, Nikiforos was seen on video responding to a question while being peppered with questions and comments from another reporter, who kept suggesting the bishop was adopting Moscow’s position.
NIkiforos, who called on any TV channel to give him air time to explain the Ukrainian issue, started walking away when the inquisitive reporter asked whether the bishop wanted to follow the footsteps of Mark of Ephesus, who was best known for rejecting the Council of Ferrara-Florence in the 15th century.
“Shut up,” Nikiforos replied as he was walking away.
“Beg your pardon,” the reporter replied, adding “you need to be polite."
“And you need to stop interfering…” the bishop went on to say as he turned back towards the journalist, with the reporter saying “you think you’re somebody” as others intervened.
“You’re a sleazy man,” Nikiforos replied, with the reporter asking him to take it back and the bishop going on to say “what a scumbag” as he was walking away.
NIkiforos later issued a statement saying the reporter kept interfering and acting inappropriately during the interview, adding that the journalist was mocking him.
“Instead of asking questions he put it to me in a provocative fashion that I was not following Canon law but Russian law,” Nikiforos said, adding that after he told the reporter to behave “he mocked me and said I was aspiring to become the new Mark of Ephesus.”
“It is true that his indecent, provocative, and offensive behavior caused me to lose calm and I behaved inappropriately, which is not part of who I am,” the bishop said.
Nikiforos went on to say that perhaps he snapped due to fatigue and tensions just earlier during the Holy Synod but admitted he should have kept his calm.
“I don’t want to use an excuse. I am a Bishop of the Ordthodox Church and I should have remained calm,” Nikiforos said.
“I wish to express my deepest regret over the incident and ask for forgiveness both from the television audience as well as the reporter himself,” the bishop concluded.
Nikiforos previously said the Holy Synod’s decision wasn’t binding on those who disagreed with Chrysostomos because it was a matter of “faith and canon law.”
The Holy Synod rejected Nikiforos' compromise proposal not to go against the Archbishop’s move, but not to be in full communion with Epiphanius either, with Bishop Georgios speaking as the spokesperson of the body saying decisions were binding according to its constitution whether they’re made unanimously or by majority.
Ten out of 17 bishops voted not to contest Chrysostomos’ decision, seen by many as de facto recognition of independence for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Patriarch’s decision last year has divided the Orthodox world, with some churches expressing support and others criticizing it.