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December 28th, 2011
12:34 PM ET

Police storm Church of the Nativity to break up brawling priests

From Enas Muthaffar and Kevin Flower, CNN

Bethlehem, West Bank (CNN) -
Clergy from two Christian sects came to blows in the Church of the Nativity on Wednesday morning, prompting police to storm the Bethlehem holy site.

Several dozen Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests were cleaning the interior of the church Wednesday morning when, according to witnesses, two of them began fighting.

The fight quickly escalated, and soon, 50 to 60 priests were exchanging blows with broomsticks.

Bethlehem police were sent in to quell the fighting, Palestinian police Maj. Ahed Hasayen said.

Police stand guard inside the Church of the Nativity after a fight broke out between priests.

"This is an internal problem related to the Nativity church only. The Palestinian police had to interfere to stop the clashes as soon as possible to avoid devastating consequences," he said.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

According to tour guide Ghassen Tos, the fight, while intense, was short in duration.

“This did not last for long as soon as the Palestinian police interfered and succeeded to halt the clashes immediately,” he said.

There were no reports of any serious injuries.

The Church of the Nativity is built in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on the site where Christian tradition holds Jesus Christ was born, and it is a major attraction for tourists coming to the Holy Land.

Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy clean the Church of Nativity on December 28, 2011.

The interior of the church is traditionally cleaned by priests in between celebrations of Christmas on December 25 and the Orthodox celebration in the first week of January.

The church is administered jointly by the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian religious authorities, and tension between the sects is not uncommon.

In 2007, clergy from the same sects came to blows in a similar incident.

CNN Photos: Christmas in Bethlehem

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Israel

soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. Greensboro church cleaning service

    I was excited to discover this great site. I want to to thank you for your time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely loved every part of it and I have you saved to fav to look at new stuff in your blog.

    March 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  2. Todd F

    For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    1 Cor. 1:18.

    Repent and seek the Living God.

    December 30, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  3. OrthodoxGuy

    I still find this occurance to be highly shameful and embarassing. Christians are supposed to be united in brotherhood onto our belief in God and acceptance of Jesus as our Savior. I just don't get this... Especially not from the Orthodox..

    December 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  4. gupsphoo

    This should be extremely embarrassing to Christians. Their conflict required Palestinians to restore peace. Wow!!!

    December 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  5. derp

    What's next, nuns oil wrestling on a buttered waterbed.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Rev. Jimmy Bob, CEO of GodCash Ministries

      That might help get rednecks back into my church. I am also starting some innovative approaches to building my ministry into more lucrative, uh, widespread numbers of adherants. Here are some you will see soon:

      We are building a "Jesus Loves You But He Loves Crushing Cars More" monster truck. Should put people directly in touch with their faith.

      Along the same lines, we bought an old Oscar Meyer car and are converting it a bit. It will have "Jesus' Giant Weiner" written on the side, in big gold letters. We are going to tour the country with that one.

      We were going to do some cheap lousy rip-offs of mainstream music, put idiotic lyrics on it and make it really suck, but it turns out that has been done already – they call it Christian rock.

      If you have any ideas for me to make money, uh, build faith on, post 'em right here.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • derp

      NASCAR bookmaking?

      December 30, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Higgs Bosun

      tis a shame they didn't all have fully loaded uzis when the fight(?) broke out...that was nothing but a bunch of pansy pederasts waving at each other...money making scheme – charge for prayers and provide a moneyback guarantee...no answer to your prayer and you get a full refund rather than becoming the victim of a religious scam

      December 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  6. Saed Abu Hmud

    I wonder what are Those Armenian mercenaries doing in Bethlehem?! They act as if they posses any rights in the Nativity church, which it was built by Greeks and still owned and run by the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek Patriarch. They (The Armenians) were granted the northern corner of the church to pray in just as a result of the Berlin treaty in 1878. I can't understand why they don't do that with the Turks who still refuse to apologise for the Armenian genocide?

    December 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • dtw888

      Saed, they are there because they are brothers, in short.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  7. Carpenter

    How I wish the police give the fighting priest some boxing gloves just to find out who is the best fist fighter....and the winner will face Manny Pacquiao inside the ring.

    December 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  8. derp

    Everybody was kung fu fightin'

    Those broom wielding monks was fast as lightnin'

    December 29, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • todd in DC

      Old age stinks.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    A quite disgusting affair.

    What ever the concrete reason was for the brawl, actually there should be no different Christian sects at all, but only one Holy Christian Church.

    The first serious schism of the Christian Church took place after the Ecu-minical Council of Chalcedon (451 a. D.), which was about the divine and the human nature of Christ. Several Churches of the Near East didn't accept the holy decision of the holy Council and thus seperated from the one Holy Christian Church and founded own Church bodies. The Church of Armenia belongs to the Churches, which have forsaken the true Church.

    Around 600 a. D. wicked papacy began to emerge. Gregory the Great (540-604 a. D.) was the last good pope, in so far he refused to accept the t-itle or rank "bishop of all bishops". Gregory the Great was yet called pope, but that merely meant "dear daddy" and had nothing to do with the bad meaning of the word pope, which it got later. The first wicked pope was Bonifatius III, which accepted the criminal edict of the tyrant Phocas (he was a criminal, which had usurped the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire by murder). This edict made the Roman See the highest on earth and the bishop of Rome became bishop of all bishops (actually God wants that all bishops are equal). When we look at the history of the Roman Catholic Church we can observe that the papacy became stronger and stronger in the course of time, so that yet 800 a. D. a new Roman Empire with an own Church (the Roman Catholic Church) was established. The frankish king Charles the Great was crowned emperor by the Roman pope. I consider this as the founding date of the Roman Catholic Church. Charles the Great committed a crime by acknowledging the pope and the pope committed a crime by crowning Charles the Great new emperor. This was the foundation of a pseudo-civilization, which is called Europe today. Neither the new emperorship was legitimate nor the new universal Church (Roman Catholic Church).

    What we need is a final ecu-minical council, in order to restore the true worldwide Christian Church. It is clear for every layman that there can be only one Church. And, indeed, first there was only one Holy Christian Church. We have to return to this holy state and all argument will end.

    December 29, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • dtw888

      Very good historical insight. Hope to see spiritual unity possible in the late time.
      From another side, if all Godly saints grow to maturity under proper guidance in Christ through Christ, it is possible for all denomns come together to celeberate the freedom and bearty of kingdom of God.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Oh yes, Pope Rainer the First, at it again. The only "true" christian is the one that agrees with ME.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  10. Methusalem

    I love the expression "atheist gangs". These gangs are waking up from their Christmas day nightmare. Now they are whining like the Kim Jong-il gangs. I think I better open a napkin factory in Whininostan.

    December 29, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • dtw888

      They are just non-awakened sleeping spirits, once they have feeling, they will know why all of us need Christ.

      December 29, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  11. dtw888

    It is a misery for all denominations, and Christ-heart crying condition. The root cause is fewer and fewer really know Jesus, most of us just practice religon...

    December 29, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • claybigsby

      "The root cause is fewer and fewer really know Jesus, most of us just practice religon"

      Irony is, the biblical authors never even knew Jesus. How can you be expected to?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • dtw888

      well, claybifsby, good question. Nobody, including the authors of bible, truely know the whole Jesus, it is a lifetime or enternal process to know him wholly. But all the mystry and answer are in Holy Spirit, it is He the Spirit who still are operating in those hearts who truely in Christ, who operating in those who authoring the bible, who build the unity of THE CHURCH, and who continueouly attract and calling generation to generation to follow Christ, and who guide us into the TRUTH and freedom, and who lead us into everlasting LIFE which means entering another domain outside of time and 3d world. And I testify it is true just as bible says. And hope you try it and taste it, you will for sure know too.

      December 29, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • TR6

      @dtw888:” who lead us into everlasting LIFE which means entering another domain outside of time and 3d world. “

      Evidence that your statement isn’t just a fantasy? And no a 2000 year old book of sadistic fairy tales is not evidence

      December 29, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • claybigsby

      @DTW888...."Nobody, including the authors of bible, truely know the whole Jesus,"

      The writers never knew, saw, or spoke to Jesus directly. Everything written about him in the bible is hearsay at best. They new nothing of the man.

      "it is a lifetime or enternal process to know him wholly"

      Again, if the people who wrote about him didnt know him at all, how are you supposed to? You may think you "know" jesus, but at most you know 2000 year old stories of a man told to you by people who didnt know him.

      "ut all the mystry and answer are in Holy Spirit, it is He the Spirit who still are operating in those hearts who truely in Christ, who operating in those who authoring the bible, who build the unity of THE CHURCH, and who continueouly attract and calling generation to generation to follow Christ, and who guide us into the TRUTH and freedom, and who lead us into everlasting LIFE which means entering another domain outside of time and 3d world. And I testify it is true just as bible says. And hope you try it and taste it, you will for sure know too."

      this is one big run on sentence, but do you really believe man when they said they were inspired by god when they authored the bible? Fact is you have no proof of anything you have written in your response. Faith is not proof. The bible is not proof. Miracles are not proof. Just because you think something is true doesnt mean it is. and just for your information, i have read the bible and still think its garbage to control the masses. We obviously have differing opinions, so take your faith in christianity and i will take my lack there of and part ways. But I will give you a word of advice...when trying to convince people to believe in your faith, I would suggest trying to find other ways of conveying that opinion rather than hearsay bible scripture written by men, fear mongering to control children and to try and control adults, and faith based arguments. Try presenting actual evidence and people may listen.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • dtw888

      Claybigsby and TR6, that is ok, I am not trying to project my faith upto you. And as matter of fact, no real salvation if not directly from Trinity God himself, what I say and bible says is just a message, a good message for all. But please remember and I pray for both of you, when the judgement comes upon you in your life time, just remember to give Jesus a chance to save you. He is always faithful, that is the message.

      December 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • todd in DC

      DTW888, I could not care less what invisible sky fairy picks your fancy. However, when you create laws based on said fairy to take away the same rights you have access to, well then we are going to have difficulties.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • claybigsby

      @DTW888: you contradict yourself more than the bible does.

      You said "I am not trying to project my faith upto you" yet go on to say "when the judgement comes upon you in your life time, just remember to give Jesus a chance to save you. He is always faithful, that is the message." So yes, you are trying to project your faith onto me by speaking in absolutes about your religion when in actuality, you possess no more knowledge than I about the origins of mankind and the universe we live in, what happens when we die, etc. Another word of advise....be humble and admit to yourself that you do not have all the answers. How do I know this? Because I dont have all the answers and unless you are some god yourself, I can say with 100% certainty that you are not 100% certain about your religion.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • claybigsby

      @DTW888: and you never answered my question....do you really believe man when they said they were inspired by god when they authored the bible??

      December 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • dtw888

      Todd, No law, where is Spirit, where is freedom, Religion bound, Christ free. Real law cannot be made or take away.

      Clay.., as I said, it is a message, just wait and see. You are right, I am not 100% sure, that's why I continue to pursue.
      I absolutely think bible is inspired by Spirit, without Spirit no body can understand what bible is talking about, it is self-conflicting, at most nicely articulated moral law. words to death, spirit to life. Each time when you find challenge, ask Spirit who is always around you, see how he guide you into truth. I still has a lot do not understand, but each tough point once understood it is a diamond. Just personal experience for your reference.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • dtw888

      For example, if you read bible as other text book, it full of paradox, if you add in Spirit, you suddenly find out all conflicts are elevations at different level of perceptions, but until one day you are saved, you will find out the TRUTH Christ tried to give human being so plainly simple and clear and lound. How do you know you are saved? how could not one person with eyes tell day and night? that is how clear when you get saved by the TRUTH.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Only fools believe in something so passionately while lacking evidence. Why not just accept the fact, be humble and realize that there is no way you are going to prove your god exists. Realize that your religion could very well be (and probably is) false, and Islam or Buddhism Or maybe even some religion we have no idea about could be the truth. Just stop talking in absolutes. Christianity is hardly an absolute.

      "Each time when you find challenge, ask Spirit who is always around you, see how he guide you into truth."

      Talking to imaginary beings in most states makes you insane. Replace "spirit" with "santa" and see how ridiculous your statements are. When I find I encounter a challenge, I look within myself to pull me through and get me where i need to be. I wont rely on my imagination to overcome challenges in my life.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • claybigsby

      and again DTW888, since your not comprehending my posts, just because you think something is "TRUE" doesnt mean it is. Usually to prove a fact, you need evidence and not hearsay bible scripture.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • dtw888

      When throw one frog into water it swim with joy, when throw one clay into water, it sinks and said "what is water?", the only difference is that there is life in frog, but no life in clay.

      By the way, physically we all made out of clay and return to clay, no dispution here.

      December 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • claybigsby

      ok agree to disagree....but can you please answer this for me??

      do you really believe man when they said they were inspired by god when they authored the bible??

      December 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • dtw888

      i am not sure others, but regarding bible authors, I am so sure, why? because the Spirit inside me, not only teach me to read bible, but reveal more, fresher, wider and ever rich understanding of it. That is why I know it is breathed by Spirit, becuase that is the same Spirit across space and generations. He is alive the same today as the beginning of universe.

      December 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "i am not sure others, but regarding bible authors, I am so sure, why? because the Spirit inside me, not only teach me to read bible, but reveal more, fresher, wider and ever rich understanding of it. That is why I know it is breathed by Spirit, becuase that is the same Spirit across space and generations. He is alive the same today as the beginning of universe."

      This is the biggest load of crap I have ever heard. to each their own i guess....happy brainwashing

      December 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • claybigsby

      So if I told you I was writing bible verses now and that I am inspired by god, would you believe me? why not?

      December 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • dtw888

      Clay.., it is not brainwashing, the sign of brainwashing is religion which made people more cruel, the real christian is heart-changing, the sign of it is full of passion and love. That is outside signs you can tell the difference.

      You even cannot believe what I try to tell you happened on earth, how is it possible to let me believe you that God let you write anything occurs in heaven? the spirit of prophets will not against prophets.

      December 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "You even cannot believe what I try to tell you happened on earth, how is it possible to let me believe you that God let you write anything occurs in heaven?"

      well since you put your faith in the men who wrote the bible, I would assume it would be easy to believe me when I say god has inspired me to write more bible verses. The reason I dont believe you, is because you are a fallible human being like the authors of the bible. THAT IS THE POINT. You put your faith in men you never spoke to, who never witnessed Jesus and his actions, yet you will not put your faith in people who you do speak to, (albeit on a blog) who never witnessed Jesus and his actions. What makes them better than I?

      December 30, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • claybigsby

      and yes...when you indoctrinate children to believe this crap, it is the very definition of brainwashing.

      December 30, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Higgs Bosun

      knowing jc is hardly the answer...this is the little twerp whose bright idea it was to take some segment of humanity and torture them for eternity...if you exclude the book of revelations, virtually all statements about hell, eternal punishment, etc. come out of the mouth of jehovah's little brat...and THAT is who you worship...even worse, THAT is who you "love"...to love such a being would seem to me to be an impossibility, and it SHOULD be impossible...if anyone actually believes that there is a being whose intention it is to eternally torture some segment of humanity and they can honestly say that they "love" that being, what does it say about them...it certainly doesn't say anything good about them...and that story of eternal torment is clearly in your supposed holy book

      December 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • dtw888

      Clay..& Higgs, all of what you said just demonstrated that you do not know or understand what is "LIGHT and FREE", not only your inner eyes are closed, but also you live in darkness. Very typical for all fallen human beging. That is exactly why all humen will lost the chance to see light after death. Because these two domains are not abel co-exist or communciated.

      Turn around with a new angle, while you have chance. Only TRUTH can set you free.

      December 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • HCG

      hi DTW, thanks patiently explaining the good message to these bloggers, just by reading the messages anyone can see the difference of Christ in people, one is filled with compassion and acceptance, and the other is cynical and confrontational.
      its just funny to read the argument of the clay dude, obviously he didn't even bother to read the bible and do his home work to disprove it with logic and reasons, what a pity.
      and yeah if this Clay is reading, like you said, find evidence, did you found enough evidence to disprove the only book in human history to withstand the test of time and remain accurate that can really transform lives?
      and since you are so passionate about arguing with DTW, what about spill some effort to check and read this book that withstand more than 2000years of time, written by numerous authors in different regions but all with one central message = Salvation from Jesus Christ. and another FYI, in case you might wanna add something to the Bible, it is impossible, first God's hand has always protected it and second you need to print at least 10 billions of it just to replace what is out there today. the bible has different versions, but never a different message.

      June 18, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  12. Kebos

    You know why the priests were fighting?

    Because they are all insane and fanatical.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • todd in DC

      No. It was simply a game of Quidditch that got out of hand.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"No. It was simply a game of Quidditch that got out of hand."

      Ok, even as a Christian .....to me that was funny. :)

      First thing I thought was that someone suggested switching to a swifter floor cleaning system and while they were debating one priest asked if any of them had heard of a iRobot Roomba. At that point the gloves were off.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  13. Reality

    Christmas is historically a non-event. Ditto for the Feast of the Magi, Holy Innocents Day and the solemnity of Mary aka New Years day. So the topic priests are simply another example of the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in the fallacies of your religion in this case Christianity!!! Details available upon request.

    December 29, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Bo

      @Reality, I've never asked [challenged] you before, but why do you come up with all these odd “statements”? Why do you you call Christmas being a “non-event”? (I personally believe that Christmas is a Catholic holiday with out any Biblical support, but plenty of pagan support like some other holidays and I doubt that they should be observed because of their pagan origin, but that is neither here nor there, and except for the ridiculous commercializing of the day, be that of Easter, or Christmas or Halloween, which blots out the purpose of the day, I really have no problem with people who wish to celebrate the birth or resurrection of Christ. (Holloween, [Holy Evening] which is suppose to venerate saints, observed with ghosts and goblins, hardly religious anymore.) However, the “Feast of the Magi”, invented by the Catholics is really a very minor holiday, which nobody, who I know of, celibates, and “Mary a.k.a. known as the New Year”, I've never associated New Year's Day with any religious celebration, nor do I know anyone else that does; where did you come up with this?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Reality

      "The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is a liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on 1 January, the Octave Day of Christmas. In some countries this day is considered a holy day of obligation."

      December 29, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Actually Reality is correct. Until recently, Jan 1 always was the "Feast of the Circu'mcision of Our Lord", which was renamed, whatever, in honor of their Mother Goddess.

      December 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  14. TR6

    I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.
    – Ghandi

    December 29, 2011 at 5:40 am |
    • Wildbillcuster

      "Dang! I hate when I get shot to death by a fellow Hindu!" -Ghandi

      December 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  15. stmark

    Hold up everyone. Before we rush to judge we must remember that these 'men of God' are first 'men'. They are subject to like passions and emotions as we all! That they've taken vows doesn't make them auto perfect gods! They r human wt human inclinations! Even d master did take a whip to 'church members' in d hieght of emotions...so we all aint any better and definitely in no place to criticise! Ta!

    December 29, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  16. TR6

    This would make perfict reality TV

    December 29, 2011 at 5:00 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.