NICOSIA — The best man slapped the groom on the back, which is an old Cypriot wedding custom. The priest punching the best man would be an innovation.
But Cyprus police said Monday they are investigating an allegation that this happened at a wedding over the weekend.
Police say the victim —the groom’s 22-year-old brother — was taken to a hospital but wasn’t seriously hurt and that his family filed a complaint.
A family member — speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing — said the priest had initially gestured with a raised hand for the slapping to cease, then punched the brother in the chest and face when the warning went unheeded.
The family member told The Associated Press that the wedding unraveled during the ceremony’s Dance of Isaiah, when the priest, holding the Gospel, led the couple around the altar three times. With the backslapping continuing, the irate priest put the gospel down and unleased on the brother.
“It’s a tradition that I don’t condone, but that was uncalled for. … He could have just interrupted the ceremony,” said the family member. He said although the priest hastily abandoned the ceremony after the kerfuffle, the couple did receive a marriage certificate.
“The wedding was spoilt after that with many people not showing up for the reception after word spread, but we made the best of it,” the family member said.
Bishop of Paphos Georgios backed the priest, whom he hailed as one of the best clerics in his Diocese. He told the state-run Cyprus News Agency that the backslapping custom, dating from Ottoman times, doesn’t befit the island’s Orthodox Christian traditions.
The bishop said he had instructed priests to interrupt any ceremony where family or guests didn’t demonstrate the appropriate respect. He added he would investigate the matter.