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. Chris from Iowa

    Mista Mista, Wow that was deep, man. Far out.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  2. sosume

    This is one for the books. Palestinian police, undoubtedly Muslim, have to break up a fight between two Christian sects. What next?

    December 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Nothing that special here. A Muslim family has held the keys to the Chruch of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem for about 1,000 years.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. jschau

    Ha ha ha ha. A great idea for a new reality show, Religious Freaks Fight It Out!

    December 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  4. Reader48

    Thanks priests. We Christians don't need any more bad press from Christian leaders behaving badly. May God save Christs' reputation from the actions of His followers.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • George

      Christians are held to an impossible high standard ..........

      December 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Patrick

      Christians are held to their own standards. The reason they get grief if because they fail constantly while judging others. It’s call hypocrisy.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  5. mistamista

    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 except 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 1:44 pm |
    • baatman74

      a little 'windy,' otherwise, correct. It takes balls to admit this, god was invented because folks cannot face life and death as do the Deer, Bear, horse, etc. We have that magic number of chromozones, 46, that give this animal alone the power to think, therefore, we 'think' we are different..... But, we too, like the rabbit will become part of the earth from which we came. And like Meryl Haggard sang, "...die along the highway like some ole high-line pole..."

      December 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • evensteven

      Alas, we are energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change form.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  6. PPJr

    That was the God's plan for them.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Vulpes

    Christmas is all about kicking but for your version of the holiday ... NOT ;-(

    December 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  8. ProperVillain

    Nothing says Christian love and Christmas spirit like a good old fashioned brawl on a holy site....

    December 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  9. str8vision

    And these men preach the word of God and lessons of Jesus to the masses? LoL

    December 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  10. Chris

    This article confuses me because I traveled to Israel back in 2000 for training while in the Marine Corps and when I had a few days off I took a tour of many Christian sites and was under the impression that Bethlehem was in Palestine and not Israel. I could be wrong but I'm sure we went through a checkpoint before going in to Bethlehem and when we returned for this very church. In the article it says Bethlehem, Israel and than talks about Palestinian Police stepping in.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • David

      As a former Marine myself, I'm really interested in what type of training brought you to Israel.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Patrick

      Bethlehem is in Israel. Palestine is not a country.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Neither is Israel.

      Both are Roman teritories.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Demuth...Israel was not a Roman territory. Judea was and so was Arabia Petrea..but not Israel.

      Israel of today is a country. There is yet to be a State of Palestine. Maybe soon however.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • ckbabs

      David – my brother was in the USMC too and while he had a 6 month deployment on the USS Nauseau, they did a stop in Israel and actually trained with some of their soliders for a few weeks and even took a military class or 2 with/from them. That was around 1998.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  11. FoolmetwicecantgetfooledagainHuhHuhHuh

    I thought it was Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic, is there now a pope in Armenia? LOL

    December 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  12. JJ


    December 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  13. Paul

    "MY church is better than YOUR church!!" "Oh YEAH? Well, take THAT, sucka!!" (Good grief.)

    December 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  14. Roger

    I wonder if they all rode in on their broomsticks ?

    December 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  15. Barangha the Great

    Does anyone else notice that the holier a place is, the more it tends to cause people to fight amongst themselves, even among peaceful people? It's kind of strange.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Patrick

      Religions are anything but peaceful. Do as I say, not as I do.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  16. The Central Srutinizer

    I saw that dude in the beard sweeping the floor at Wendy's last week. Must be a good gig.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      You shouldn't be watching them sweep when you have ppl at the drivethru..no wonder there is a line clear around the block.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  17. Enlightened

    Yeah... but whose side is GOD on?

    December 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Patrick

      Tim Tebow's of course. Even if it was the kicker who scored the winning goal.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  18. SeekTruth

    Jesus Christ God Incarnate is NOT "religion". Jesus came to abolish all this dung.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • TR6

      Failed pretty miserably didn’t he?

      December 29, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  19. SeekTruth

    Beware of modern day Pharisee & Saducee !!!

    December 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      You must be speaking of the American Protestant church then. Their battle cry is the same as the money changers in the temple...

      December 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Ted M.

      No, those would be modern Jew cults, like the ones who spit on little girls. Or you could include all the Christian cults as well.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Ted- do you always hold the entire group responsible for the few idiots out there? That is lacking in wisdom I feel.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Ted M.

      Lame Swain, if that's the best you can do then I shall snort in derision and move on.

      December 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Ah..a non-answer. Not a very clever dodge tactic.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  20. Joe

    Apparently arabs are arabs... primative cultures trump religious guidance like "loving your neighbor". Once an arab, always an arab.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • ray

      These weren't even Arabs you fool. lol

      December 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • cw

      Ugh, Joe... Do you even read before you type? Or are you simply incapable of complex thought?

      December 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Adam

      Actually, these are true Greeks and Armenians! I am sure it's troubling to you not to find the Arab or Muslim connection.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Dan

      Arab? You think Armenians and Greeks are Arab? What a toolbox.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Mohammed

      Finish grade school already! If you did you would have read that it was Armenians and Greeks. Don't you want a Well Done sticker? Get on it!

      December 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Truefax

      Damn Joe, that's one giant a$$ pounding you brought on to yourself, hope your reading comprehension skill improve.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Church of Suicidal

      World cultures is obviously not Joe's strong point.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
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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.