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.

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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. Brandon

    Behold – the hipocrisy of christianity.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • David

      Amen- sorry the pun.
      I do wonder if any felt shame in their heart after this, or just seething hatred for the "other side".

      December 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Behold- the spelling of Brandon.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  2. Zoundsman

    Shaolin Monks would have kicked every one of their azzes.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  3. David

    AH yes- the religion of peace.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  4. Ezra Sephardity

    Greek Orthodox/Armenian/Catholic are not "sects"

    December 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      But they are cults!

      December 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      No Hotair...they are not.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Ted M.

      1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
      2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
      3. the object of such devotion.
      4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
      5. Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

      So HotAirAce is correct. These are cults. Why pretend otherwise? It is only when so many cults are ridiculous that people like Uncouth Swain seek to distance their own cult from the others that they even object to the word.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      My apologizes Ted. If he actually meant it by the definition you gave..then I am sorry. But I doubt he meant to use the term by the definition you gave. There are other terms one can give than "cults" that do not carry a stignma with it. Right?

      December 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      And plz Ted, don't make as_sumtions on what I believe or not believe because you really have no idea what I believe anymore than I know what you believe.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Of course I was fully aware of the above definition of a cult – I've posted it more than once myself. And of course, I'm also aware of the negative conotations of the word. Given that I hate all religions (equally) and believe they exist largely due to accidents of birth (geography and parents) and childhood indoctrinatian, I did intend the negative conotation as well. It is a cult's issue if their brand of religion has associated negative conotations – not mine. If you don't like the negative aspects, go on a campaign to clean up your cult and the public's perception of it.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @HAA- I belong to no cult.
      Not to mention that I find it illogical to hate an entire group.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I hate religion, not the religious. Same as hate the sin, not the sinner.

      December 28, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Well..that's better then.

      December 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Ted M.

      *rolls eyes*

      December 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  5. Anne

    Love thy neighbor as thy self...yeah right

    December 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  6. TR

    This happens every other year.It's usually because someone stepped into an area where they should not have.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Ted M.

      See? Dogpoop is holy. Do not step on the dogpoop!

      December 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  7. Mike

    Merry Christmas! These guys and the preacher on the lam from Las Vegas take the prize!

    December 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  8. John K

    How much damage can you do with a broomstick?

    December 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • mistamista

      Just enough to make the Christians forget what they were fighting for an turn on Muslims again. It's sad really.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  9. Whoknows

    If one man believes in an imaginary friend, he is considered looney. However if many believe in an imaginary friend, it is considered religion.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      And the point of your ignorant rant is?

      December 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Ted M.

      Isn't it amazing how dense some people are?

      December 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Very true Ted..they think that they can insult a group of ppl that they know nothing about. Ooooh..I see, you meant me...silly me. You rather lean toward the side that makes generalizations about whole groups of ppl without any facts to back them up. I see now..you lean toward ignorance instead of understanding.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Ted M.

      Wow. More dense than I thought. How sad.

      December 28, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Oh Teddy...step out of the junior league of insults and step it up boy-o.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  10. Geezer

    christianity is a religion of peace....hahahaha

    December 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

    "The fight quickly escalated, and soon, 50 to 60 priests were exchanging blows with broomsticks."
    i dont know about you guys but i would love to have seen this

    December 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • David

      Just throw a piñata in there and it's a party.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  12. The Central Srutinizer

    Heaven is a place in Hell.
    A place where Angels and Demons dwell.
    The bell rings, the Devil Swings and on God’s throne he begins to dwell.
    Looking through space and time the duality of the immortals shine.
    The singing begins and the song is one of the infinite.
    Universes are sung, Galaxies too.
    Stars and planets and me and you.
    But we can hear the singing not.
    For we are here on this planet caught.
    The web we weave to cry and deceive.
    Robs us of our own immortal lot.

    So let's rumble!

    December 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Raghav

      Wow!!! That is an awesome rendition of the sad state of affairs we see in organized religion nowadays. Devil must indeed be seated where GOD ought to be for humanity to degrade itself this way. Its a shame that people who supposedly pray to the same GOD refuse to co-exist peacefully. Where are we, as humans heading with this?????

      December 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • mistamista

      Terribly misguided words. We're in a Hell of our own design...there is NO Heaven as we do not truly wish one exist...the Devil walks among us IN each of us and grows stronger with every step we take and God doesn't exist expect to those few who do not understand the ritual mythology of old. We are all doomed by our own hands, our own actions and our own deeds. The closest we will ever get to eternity is in the theater. Man was not built, nor meant to live forever. We get THIS body, THIS life, THIS time to do with as we will. Then, like everything else (including the misguided dreams of God and the Devil) will return to nothing more than dust, children of the stars. Enjoy your life, time, friends, family and humanity. They are ALL fleeting dreams that will be gone when you are gone.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • The Central Srutinizer

      I like eggs.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  13. fredflintstone

    Hmmmmmm how Godly of you.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    This is what can happen when priests are sweet on the same boy.


    December 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • DeeNYC

      hahaha was thinking exact same thing.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • ryan


      December 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @David, Dee, Ryan- you are all idots.
      And David...at least try and seem like you have a brain eh...you want to make fun of Catholics, ok..whatever floats your boat. But could you at least make sure there ate some Catholics in the story before you make a fool of yourself.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Magwister

      Don't believe David mentioned Catholics, just 'priests'. I assume you think he referred to Catholics as you believe only you lot do that to little boys...I am not so sure about that though and think there is probably plenty of it going on in the Greek and Armenian churches as well.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Mag- no doubt you base a lot of your thinking on factless opinions.
      When ppl mention a priest and Christianity....you are telling me that the average European/N. American viewer would not be thinking of the Catholics? Plz.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      OK, so let's be a little more creative with the scenario. Since the RCC also has a presence there...

      "HEY! Where were the Catholic priests while all this broom swashbuckling was going on? I bet they started the whole thing as a diversion so they could sneak the kids in the back while the police were distracted!!!"

      December 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Let me guess...you are making this guess off of experience?

      December 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Ted M.

      All I can say is that Uncouth appears to be the sort of person who has a real problem in understanding other people and in making posts worth reading. What a waste.

      December 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Did you say something Teddy? Just seems like the same rambling you have been doing for awhile now. Such a pity you have nothing to offer in the conversation.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  15. The Central Srutinizer

    Sorry, I started the whole dam thing. I am the guy with the surgical mask on.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  16. Curious

    Are we opposed to same-sects marriage? Perhaps we should be if we're for diversity and greater understanding.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • David

      But that would be logical and in line with Jesus' teachings about love. We wouldn't want a thing like THAT to work its way into our "faith" now would we. Let's keep it hateful and exclusionary.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  17. Hypatia

    Utterly shameful! (where's the full video?)

    December 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  18. The Bobinator

    Look, the priests don't have to fight. My house needs a good cleaning.

    Jesus appeared there I swear. There was a dust bunny in the shape of our lord and saviour. The windows also have been spotted in the rough shape of a cross.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Sorry Bob..I think they need something more along the lines of an Icon.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  19. derp

    Jesustards beating up other jesustards. Religion of peace!

    December 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Ah..the sophisticated rantings of derp...what would we do without them.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • derp

      "what would we do without them."

      Face it, you'd be bored.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Nah..we still have David to kick around.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • derp

      Yes, but you certainly had to admire how I squeezed two insults into one post on the other thread, without even taking a shot at christians.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  20. The Bobinator

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

    Clever double entendre CNN. Very clever.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • John K

      I believe that's only a double entendre in your own mind.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
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