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. Edward

    I just love it. I bet it felt good for them to let off some steam.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  2. Crownnoble

    The Spirit of Peace was laid upon our earthy flesh 2000 yrs. ago, but somehow it never got inside these jokers to use it. Blind leading the blind. Whoever ordained them knows nothing about the power of Truth nor the Spirit of Peace. Just a bunch of life mongers, killing with their fists to obtain and protect it for themselves. Run, lest these wolves consume you too.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Real America

      At least no serious injuries. Worse happens at hockey games.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Drama down...no one died.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • The Central Srutinizer

      I died a little, inside.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Real America

      Worse happens in the showers of most Catholic Schools

      December 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Real America

      Do tell, William. What goes on in Catholic school showers?

      December 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "I died a little, inside."

      But I thought you didn't believe that their was anything "inside" you.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      And then I died a little more.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Plz keep us appraised on the situation. I would like to know when you suddenly become a little more alive on the inside. You are a real downer when you die a little bit at a time.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  3. Karaya


    December 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain


      December 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Tex


    December 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  5. bud

    I guess there's Jesus, then the other 99.99999999999999999999999999%

    December 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  6. Matt F.

    Forget the religion and dogma of man. God is more than our petty violence.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  7. Observer

    The nativity is where the so-called "Three WISE Men" brought gold and the ABOMINATIONS of myrrh and frankincense to baby Jesus and are praised by hypocritical h0mophobes for doing it.

    "Incense is an ABOMINATION to me" - God.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • AhhPures

      Wow. I'm burning some right now and it smells really good.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • James

      Read up on the New Testament and you will see God is far more interested bringing diversity together at His table. Rather than looking to see what makes us different we are asked to see God in each of us....not just the ones that look and believe just as we do!

      December 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • truth

      If you actually read the account you will realize that the Bible doesn't say there were "three wise men," it says there were astrologers. The Bible also strictly condemns astrology. Keep in mind they were led first to Herod (who wanted baby Jesus dead) then to the baby. By the time they arrived, Jesus was likely two years of age. (Not still in the manger, obviously.) So, these so called three wise men were disobeying god, were led first to Jesus' enemy then to Jesus. Who was leading them? Aparently not a friend of God.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @truth- the text doesn't exactly say that they were astrologers. Probably they were but it doesn't quite say that.

      @Observer- I wouldn't cherry-pick the text.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Observer

      Uncouth Swain,

      Everyone picks and chooses from the Bible. That's why so many hypocritical Christians select verses to trash gays rather than apply the GOLDEN RULE.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • justme

      we know what you want to do unto us and that's why you are so pathetic and choose what you want to.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Observer- Sounds like you would call cherry-picking bad behavior. Then why do you get to do it? Do you justify bad behavior by pointing out other ppl's bad behavior?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  8. Sikh

    The answer to all people of Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) is to look east. Sikhism and other Indian religions offer a peaceful way of life. A way of life different than the 'dog eat dog Abrahamic world'. Peace.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • zipfan

      You are sadly mistaken and your beliefs will only lead you to an eternity away from God. There is only one way to Heaven and it can be found in the New Testament.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • MrT

      Last time I looked, Indira Gandhi was not killed by a representative of Abrahamic religion. I am not saying that Sikhism preaches violence, but as with any religion, it has followers which resort to it. All I am trying to say is that we all have a mote in our eyes, so let's not look for straws in someone else's

      December 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Curious

      Do you get on well with your Hindu neighbors?

      December 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • William Demuth


      The Punjab? The Golden Temple?

      You yahoos even arm your CHILDREN, and have slaughtered THOUSANDS

      December 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Sikh

      @ William Demuth: Us "yahoos" have an important principle called 'Protection of the meek'. We take it upon ourselves to fight injustice, if need be. The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh said: "All modes of redressing the wrong having failed, raising of sword is pious and just." If that seems inappropriate to someone, so be it.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Sikh

      @Curious: We get on well with everyone who treats us equally and with respect. At the same time, we know how to give it back to someone who dishes out ill/hatred/violence towards us.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Real America

      You're a man after my own heart, Sikh.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Sikh

      @All: If you think Sikhs are violent, let this sink in: 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur sacrificed his life so that he could save Hindus from being forcefully converted to Islam (performed by Aurangzeb, the Mogul). That's because Sikhs believe in: "Consider all human race as one". Does any Abrahamic religion has a parallel to this? Quite the opposite, actually!

      December 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  9. Epidi

    When are they gonna stop embarassing themselves? This isn't the 1st rumble these priests have gotten into. I've seen before on TV how they were throwing puches at each other over whose time it was in the chapel, etc.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  10. coder

    good book says to turn the other cheek
    doesnt say how you should do it

    December 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  11. William Demuth

    I look forward to the inevitable mushroom cloud that shall forever purge our planet of this hell on earth.

    Perhaps a smoking pile of radioactive glass is the most fitting monument for this madness.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Yeah..because THAT is the correct response to all this. *rolls eyes*

      December 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • The Central Srutinizer

      The correct response to all of this it to grab a broom!

      December 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Do you treat a mad dog?

      Once infected with this level of stupid, all they bring is misery.

      I hope they slaughter each other.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Unless you are able to purge yourself of the humanity that is within you...better take a gun and do your part. Put it to your head and pull the trigger.
      You can't use your ana_logy without accepting that you are a part of the problem.
      Perhaps a medical ana_logy would be better. If there is an infection in the body...take out the diseased flesh. Though only one that is properly trained would know how to do that. I doubt any of us are so trained.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Ted M.

      Wow, Uncouth, that was pathetic.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Sorry if that was above your head Ted. Maybe this will work better for you, there was a Cynic that once said, "Make me useful to my friends, rather than agreeable."

      Obviously you are not agreeable....could you at least make your comments useful? I know it might be new to you but it works for the rest of us. 'K?

      December 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Ted M.

      What a lame whiny response, Swain. Try reading your own posts here. All you have to say is crap.

      December 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Sadly..the opinion of a small person such as yourself matters very little. Ppl that can only comment with words like "lame" obviously have little going for them.
      I am curious though...did you even understand the cynic quote?

      December 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  12. NickiR

    I love the religious hypocrisy! This falls right in line with all those that preach "Thou shall not kill" and then go shoot to kill at staff members of abortion clinics.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • bud

      Actually Jesus once lost his cool and drove bankers from the Temple with a whip. There is no record whether Johnny of Cochran sued.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  13. Steven

    Religion is evil.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • coder

      that's like saying a weapon is evil
      it's modern man's interpretation of religion is evil
      the people who wield religion are the most at fault
      power corrupts – absolutely

      December 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • zipfan

      You are focusing on the wrong thing. Being right with God is not about religion but a relationship, a personal one

      December 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Steven- no it's not

      December 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Leigh

      Coder: "That's like saying a weapon is evil. It's modern man's interpretation of religion is evil. The people who wield religion are the most at fault. Power corrupts – absolutely."

      Religion is a man-made codification of collective belief. In its most innocent form, it provides a framework within which to live life and express faith. Unfortunately, religion is rarely innocent. Power and authority use it for control and have done so for the past 10,000 years (give or take a millennium or two). Again, that in itself is not evil, but as you said, power corrupts.

      Modern humans' interpretation of religion is not more or less evil than it has ever been. Religion, by its very nature, cannot tolerate diversity and never has. Even between sects of the same religion, strife and violence seem to be the natural order.

      Faith is one thing. It is private and deeply personal. Religion, on the other hand ... Well, in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, "Religion poisons everything." It always has, and it always will.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  14. James D. Chamberlain

    Orthodox and Armenian... as a Roman Catholic, I would expect more from our Eastern Brethren. Leave it to the Eastern Rite to bring a broom to a knife fight.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  15. bobalu

    I want the marketing rights to the DVDs. This is pure entertainment gold. It will outsell Bumfights.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  16. Deej59

    I know it's kind of a sad story... so why can't I stop laughing? I just hope somebody caught it on video. It sounds almost like Monty Python scripted it.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Tina

      Yes...sad, but funny. We are all human, priests included.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  17. Mark from Middle River

    Every time some Atheist post with doomsday fears of the Christians uniting and turning this country or any country into any type of single lead theocracy....

    ... All I have to do is think of the Church of the Nativity.

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

      Ironic Mark.

      Its not the success of the attempt, its the insanity of it that scares me.

      Even the most devout have to see the madness of this.

      Indoctrination is terrifying. These "holy men" are in fact quite quite crazier than your average heroin addict.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      William. If this is the church that I think it is, this is not a religious battle, it is a property rights battle that has been going on for many years.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Mark from Middle River- finally..someone on here with some sense on what is going on in this story.
      The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a little more well known for it's divisions and property battles, but this church also has the same problems.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Gene

    We must not forget that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths, sharing the same origin, historic covenant and holy principle: the willingness of a man to kill another man because god told him to.

    December 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Actually the issue with this church, if I am correct, is because when the Muslims took over that area back in the old days, they allowed this church but were aware of the divisions. The leader of the Muslims, Saladin or something.. said, which ever group maintains the church the most shall control this church or be the governing denomination. There is a ladder that supposedly has been laying against a wall for over 100 or maybe 200 years that none can touch.

      In some ways I think the way it has been ordered was a wise ruling.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • zipfan

      Wow, you really need to research and get your facts straight. Not sure which god you are referring to; certainly not the one true God of the Bible. You need to get to know Him

      December 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Mark- the "ladder" issue is at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. But you are correct about the divisions here.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      SO the direct descendant of the creator, the divine orgin and his holy of holies bicker of some roach motel in the armpit of the planet.?

      People of filth wallow in filth.

      Burn it down, problem solved, using biblical logic.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Mark: Let me get this straight...whoever does the most chores gets to decide which TV show to watch?

      Something like that?

      Instead, a riot breaks out at a quidditch match?

      December 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  19. jp

    Peace on earth?

    December 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  20. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    Yes Yes ~ honor baby jesus ~ kill each other.
    get some copts, jews, muslims and catholic folks in the mix
    for the love of god accept this blood

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

      Blood for the Blood God!
      Skulls for his Skull Throne!

      December 28, 2011 at 2:35 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.