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. SC

    A priest & a rabbi walk into a church.....

    December 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  2. Ucka

    They as well as all fundamentalist sects should be heavily medicated. That you voice you hear in your collective heads is not your god. He never said anything that you've written. And medication is your only option.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  3. Pete

    Funny, I just last night watched the Simpsons episode The Greatest Story Ever D'Ohed where I'm pretty sure that was the church in which Ned Flanders started fighting Homer Simpson and got banned for life.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  4. IceT

    It's just like when my children clean their room.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Your kids' clean their room?? Miracles DO happen!!! Thank you God! Could you come visit me next?

      December 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  5. tony

    Oy! Your collection plate mustn't be bigger than my collection plate!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  6. tom

    Well, Christian holy men fighting at the site of the birth of THE Jewish Carpenter while Palestinian police are trying to break it up. I thought this was the season of peace. Jesus must be up there rolling his eyes right now. At least all three monotheistic religions were represented this time. Jay leno should show this on The Tonight Show. Thank God there were no chants of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" This is so Facebook worthy!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  7. Larry L

    Maybe they fighting over the choir boys. Religion is a cancer on the earth.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      agree with the sentiment... but slight difference on semantics...

      cancer on humanity... pest control... potential pest elimination for the earth. mother earth might be glad to be rid of her lice.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Well Larry..you are not alone with your hateful ignorance. You must be the fifth person that is trying to use a Catholic slander on the wrong ppl.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      My impression of Uncouth Swain, "ya ya ewwww yw mooo wah wah onny boody hatred foo ba"

      December 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • john

      Swain...you are the only one to mention "catholic", there fore it is YOU who identifies the chior boy comment with catholics.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Larry L

      Hateful ignorance? I wasn't the one wailing the hell out of other people with a stick. I never said anything about Catholics.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Larry, what cult do most people think of first when someone mentions something like "fighting over the choir boys?"

      December 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • ATLmatt


      December 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @The Central Scrutinizer- Thank you...I doubt there was any better way I could have had you show off your level of maturity than what you just did.

      @john- If you think that the child commentors were thinking of Greek Orthodox or Armenian...then you have great faith in their knowledge..or you are just plain stupid.
      I'm sorry, but the haters on here are not so clever. They have limited knoweldge of Christian sects and have no problem mixing them up to suit their cravings of flinging insults.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      swain- you make me swoon. child brides are quite predominant in islam and mormons and once the great christian cult (which only recently moderated itself). Perhaps you should read a little of the history of your cult and not believe every thing from the pulpit. Even "the devil can site scripture for his own purpose." (quote from the Merchant of Venice by the great William Shakespeare.)

      December 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Ted M.

      "My impression of Uncouth Swain, "ya ya ewwww yw mooo wah wah onny boody hatred foo ba"

      That is just SPOT ON and priceless! It also made me laugh a lot. Thanks!

      December 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @ATLmatt- what on earth are you going on about? Also..I don't attend a church. Plz quit guessing about that which you don't understand. I know it will probably limit your comments down to one per month but it's a sacrifice that you should make.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Ted- my gosh your are a little sheep aren't you. You will follow anyone that gives you an avenue for your ignorance.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      oh swain- everyone is dumb or spouting rubbish. it must be such a burden to be the only one with a lick of sense. I was responding to your quote below and your are responding in an exchange about child abuse. Please try to keep up as I really dont want to have to explain things for you again.

      "Uncouth Swain- Well Larry..you are not alone with your hateful ignorance. You must be the fifth person that is trying to use a Catholic slander on the wrong ppl."

      December 28, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      swain- one last thing... perhaps you should follow your own advice....

      December 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @ATLmatt- Plz keep your fallacies to yourself. I've never said anything of the like on here. There are many ppl that are quite intelligent on here. Most however...are not. Or more to the truth, they are not trying to be. Heck, there are many athiests, Christians..etc on here that are quite intelligent and offer up some really good points of view.

      And considering that in no way did you give any reference to your odd little comment....the fault lies with you. Maybe you are used to just throwing out any little thought that goes through your head, but most ppl have the good sense to offer up a reference point for their comments.

      December 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Oh..and ATLmatt....when I refer to you commenting on what you don't understand. I belong to no cult and I haven't heard anyone at any pulpit in many many years. But those little facts you didn't know and decided to guess. Ignorance...it spills out among you all so much.

      December 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Ted M.

      ""ya ya ewwww yw mooo wah wah onny boody hatred foo ba"
      Yep, that sounds like Uncouth Swain alright. LOL

      December 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Lol....those errands you claim to need to get too must not have been that imporant.

      December 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  8. john

    And these barbarians presume to tell others how they should live.Violence in the name of god. My dog even knows better than that. Religiuos poeople are not quite as smart as dogs and a lot more dangerous.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      help control the zealot population... please have your Devout spade or neutered.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  9. Yahweh

    Stop fighting, my children.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • tom

      And that is the first thing that he would say.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  10. ATLmatt

    blessed are the peace makers....

    looks like they are handing out ass-whoopens and lollipops and they are all out of lollipops.

    what would jesus do? most likely it would be the crane kick just like at the end of karate kid. ha cha!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  11. ib42

    This whole thread was extremely entertaining. Thanks, some of you!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  12. Get a Grip

    do the right wing fundamentalist christians ever wonder why religion has such a bad reputation across the world? just walkin' in Jesus's footsteps!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  13. PudninTane

    Don't mess with a missionary man!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  14. IceT

    This just screams to be shared on FB!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  15. ATLmatt

    Peace perfect peace.... but only among the atheists.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • M.F. Luder

      None had read the passage "turn the other cheek".

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

      looks like if they had turn the other cheek that they would have been hit twice....

      December 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Andy Anderson

      ATLMatt: Getting hit twice is precisely the point.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      blessed are the peace makers, Andy, blessed are the peace makers. I believe Jesus intended forchristians to fill those roles. One would think if you turned the other cheek to a christian that you would only get hit once but reality comes marching in and leave it to the holy men to violent on their holy day. Its sad really and you defend it sadly. I hope you had a happy winter solstice plus three days. One full of joy and peace and not one with a christian punching you.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  16. JFB

    Armenian go to Armenia you have no business in the Orthodox church

    December 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  17. Xtabear

    Ooh! Got 'im wid a right cross ...

    December 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  18. tldixon

    It's really hard to take christianity seriously when their priests can't even be 'christlike' in their own holy places during one of the most holy times of the year for them...whatever

    December 28, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  19. Nina

    Boinking Bill – I love it!! I haven't laughted so hard in a long time...

    December 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  20. tony

    They looked like Christian Ninja's to me with the fighting sticks and face scarves! Boom! Pow! Biff!

    December 28, 2011 at 2:31 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.