December 28th, 2011
12:34 PM ET
From Enas Muthaffar and Kevin Flower, CNN
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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