Failure to commemorate a Greek Cypriot man killed by EOKA in 1973 lead to a local priest being reassigned this week, with the cleric saying it was an honest mistake but the relatives argue there was a sinister motive.
During a memorial service on Sunday at Choletria, a village in Paphos district, a priest failed to commemorate Kyriacos Papalazarou, who was killed on 1 July 1973 by a militant branch of EOKA that had remained active after Cyprus’ declaration of independence.
Left party AKEL issued a statement calling the incident “shameful” and “a disgrace” and accusing the local priest of refusing to commemorate the fallen teenager even after relatives called on him to do so repeatedly.
The issue was raised with Paphos Metropolitan Bishop Georgios, who apologized to the family and went on to suggest that the local priest was under the impression that people killed either during the coup of 15 July 1974 or otherwise killed unlawfully during atrocities, had already been commemorated the previous weekend, while the following weekend was reserved for those who died after the coup.
'In our meeting with him, we proved with evidence that the actions of the priest were planned and premeditated, a fact that cannot fail to be handled by appropriate reaction'
But AKEL says during a private audience with Georgios, the relatives rejected the idea that it was a misunderstanding, offering instead plenty of evidence that the omission was made on purpose.
“In our meeting with him, we proved with evidence that the actions of the priest were planned and premeditated, a fact that cannot fail to be handled by appropriate reaction,” AKEL said.
The incident came days after government officials were on defense, after Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou skipped a scheduled service for fallen heroes of the coup that was held in Paphos.
Prodromou’s office said the minister skipped the event because he was feeling under the weather.
But critics also condemned a decision by Paphos officials and the local church to assign speakers for the memorial services other than government officials, who typically would be appointed by the President’s Cabinet to speak on behalf of the state.
AKEL said Kyriacos’ brother Sotiris, who was killed on 20 July 1974 when Turkish troops landed on the island in response to the coup, died at the age of 20 while fighting against the enemy but also against fascism.
Murder in cold blood, case files lost
But Kyriacos, the son of a priest who actively resisted an overthrow of Archbishop Makarios during the 1972-1973 ecclesiastical crisis, was killed a year earlier at the local diocese by a man described by AKEL as a member of the revived right-wing EOKA, a Greek Cypriot nationalist militia.
“An EOKA B member guard at the metropolis murdered Kyriacos. Fully cognizant and in cold blood, the killer placed the gun barrel in the mouth of the 17-year-old child and pulled the trigger,” an AKEL statement said.
Despite a public trial with five police officers on the witness stand, nobody came forward to testify against the killer, AKEL said, adding that the suspect went on to retire and the case files had been lost.
The family praised Georgios’ decision to reassign the local priest out of Choletria and thanked members of the public who cried foul over the incident.
“No fight is lost if it is carried out jointly. And today, with your support, we kept the meaning of our Kyriakos’ sacrifice alive,” a statement said.