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. OrthodoxGuy

    There is no "piece of real estate that can save from hell." The only thing that can save the soul from eternity of hell is repentance, and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. The repentance has to be genuine, and you have to NEVER do it again for it to count. You have to LEARN from it, and not do wrong. That is the key to the Kingdom.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      I will decide who comes to my Kindom and right now it is just me who qualifies. What have you done to deserve passage?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Aren't you supposed to ask "What is your quest"?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Sorry William

      "What is your quest?"

      December 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Ted M.

      So anyone in a coma, or suffering from some mental defect like retardation cannot enter Heaven? Do tell.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • TR6

      @ OrthodoxGuy:” The repentance has to be genuine, and you have to NEVER do it again for it to count.”

      In that case hell is going to be full of Christians and heaven will be completely empty

      December 29, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  2. The Central Scrutinizer

    The Broomacratic Party hereby nominates man with beard and mask number 3 to be our representative in 2012.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  3. Doug Ewing

    The byline on this article should not read "Bethlehem, Israel." Bethlehem is not in Israel. It is not, yet, in an independent Palestine, either. Although the only way to reach Bethlehem is through Israel, there are concrete walls and control points that everyone – Israeli, Palestinian, foreigher, Jew, Christian, or Muslim – must pass through with stern scrutiny. So to style Bethlehem as being "in" Israel is totally inaccurate.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Jim

    They've converted from Jeebus bull to Harry Potter geeks! They are trying to play Quidditch!!

    December 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  5. matt houston

    ROFL... every year they show how unpious they really are, how seflish, egotistical and arrogant each group actually is. It's not about God or being a good person...it's about who will get saved from Hell or even worse, the sense of security in having a piece of real estate which supposedly guarantees them favor with their god. Hypocrites.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  6. OrthodoxGuy

    These "priests" should be ashamed of themselves. They are embarassing their Church and, when feeling the violence and hatred in their hearts, are turning against the Lord Jesus Christ. They do not deserve their vestments, and should be defrocked and excommunicated for this incident.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jim

      Actually, all christians should be ashamed of themselves. What other religion has proven to be more evil, more divisive, more violent, more prone to torture, child abuse and worse? If there is a devil, his main instrument in this world is christianity.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Jim- should an individual feel shame for what the group has done as a whole? Do you feel ashamed for being American? Human?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Uncouth Swain

      Hells yeah Swain! Aren't you?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Shame is far to tame a word to describe the burden of guilt and disgust I feel about myself and all humans.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Ironicus

      CS -That is because of your high cholesterol and bad poetry.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      @Demuth- I feel no more shame for the sins of our ancestors than I feel pride for the accomplishments of our posterity.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      How did you know about my high Cholestral? Oh the eggs gave it away.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Ok Ironicus:

      Here is a poem for you to critique. I am sure you are an expert:

      She danced
      Each jewel on her gown flying outward
      Perhaps never to return
      Each shiny gem in a cloud of total darkness
      She danced and she sang
      Her gown twirling like a pinwheel faster and faster still
      Soon to become many
      And many to become light
      And that light to become trillions of sparkles
      Still she danced
      And now the swirls were as giants dancing
      And the dancing giants would collide in beautiful confusion
      And forever the spinning would last
      Unless it stopped.

      Waiting for your expert opinion.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Ironicus

      CS – That is pretty good. I'd change the end a bit if I were writing it.
      And I never said ALL your poetry is bad! I was just ribbing you about the poetry you've done that IS bad and how you should feel guilty about that. Everyone does bad poetry and I assumed you had some bad stuff you never let us see.
      And I talked to your doctor. The proctologist. He said your head is...well...not in a good place shall we say....! 😀

      December 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  7. Go FlyAway

    Goodness, but they should have all flown away on their brooms!

    December 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Ken C

    This just proves what I've said all along: religious people are HYPOCRITES!! It's ok to fight or kill, as long as you believe in God. What a bunch of d-bags!!

    December 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • JD

      This only proves you know NOTHING about religion. There are good and bad people in every group, including atheists.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      This only just proves priests with sticks = comedy.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jim

      If there is a devil, priests are his tools.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Patrick

      Your statement is true if not misleading. For one thing comparing religion to Atheism shows a lack of understanding of what an Atheist is. Secondly study after study has proven Atheist and Agnostics typically know a great deal more about religion than the ‘faithful’. (Look it up). And thirdly Atheists are not regarding GLOBALY has hypocrites. Which is the only reason a broom fight made international news.

      Thank you, come again.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • IceT

      Atheist gangs .. lol Where do you see Athiests hanging around in Atheist gangs? But I do see groups of christians discussing shared hatred for others & chanting in unison together in gangs at least once a week.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • IceT

      don't know how my comment to another post showed up here?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Ironicus

      The moderator gods work in mysterious ways!

      December 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  9. John

    Ahhh CNN.... Keep trying! Keep posting negative or sensationalistic (but never positive) articles on Christianity! There's still 2.2 billion of us and growing, on a global scale.

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

      Whaaaaaaaaaaat.....they shouldn't post the news? Eh.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • JD

      Well you've got to admit this gets a good laugh. Lighten up.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @John : You said, "There's still 2.2 billion of us and growing, on a global scale."

      Did you get that tidbit from the earlier negative, sensationalistic article on Christianity?

      Come on...try harder. Jeezy Chreezy,

      December 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • William Demuth

      An infection that warrants a cure.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Wroxx

      Wrong!! John
      Your religion is in decline!


      December 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  10. Sambo X

    Craka beez crazy! I wuld nok him out an take his Air Jordans, boieeeee!

    December 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Sambozy, dams boy cracka ain't got no kicks!

      December 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  11. asrael

    Priests fighting with broomsticks: what's not to love about this item?...

    December 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      They could put an eye out.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  12. Enoch

    How is that so difficult to understand for the atheist clowns that no Christian has the time and interest to visit sites like this?! You all seem to be living in hell.

    December 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Rob

      You are a stupid, brainless, cowardly idiot! Like all religious people.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • IceT

      Don't you just hate it when religious leaders prove the Atheists case !

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

      It's people like YOU who give Christianity a bad name. You wouldn't know Christian values if they walked up and hit you upside that cinder block you call a head.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Well, obviously you don't come here very often. Plenty of Christians come on this blog nube. Some are genuine, some are annoyingly oblivious to reality, and some are just religiously bigoted and caustic.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Enoch

      How is the weather over there, in hell, wicked fools?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Ted M.

      Look outside your mother's basement and you tell us. You are in a place without a god. Sounds like hell, right?

      December 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  13. Nick

    To The Central Scrutinizer: Reality exists and true irrespective of your beliefs, perception and even existence.

    December 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  14. jaintn

    I'm mad they broke it up. I had $25 riding on the monks!

    December 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • William Demuth

      One Buddist from Shaolin would have made Priestsicles out of them all

      December 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Ted M.

      I hate seeing bad staff-fighting skills. If they had been without broomsticks they probably would have flailed away like girls.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  15. Save Us Jeebus!

    I'm sure this is just what Jesus intended. Nice Christian spirit, guys, and nice example to the faithful. Nice.

    December 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  16. Chad

    I do wish people would gain a basic understanding of Christianity. All these posts on how "UN-christian" behavior like this is, is completely missing the basic point of what Christianity is.

    Christianity is not first and foremost about living a good life, Jesus didn't come here to make a bad people better.

    Christians aren't Christians because they are "good" they are Christians because they have accepted the atoning work on the cross and are forgiven.

    These priests screwed up, that's all.

    December 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Save Us Jeebus!

      Well, that's your understanding, Chad. Apparently, these priests see it differently.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Forgive as you see fit, but as for myself, I feel you guys have a ton to answer for, and intend to see you held accountable.

      December 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      That's a pretty warped version of christianity. We were taught that we should 'imitate Christ' in everything we do. Your version sounds like "Jesus died for my sins, so I got a free pass to do whatever I want."

      December 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      OH! I get it now! Christianity is just an escape clause for bad behavior! Sweet! So that's why the priests are raping little boys and wars usually have a religious theme.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Chad

      @William Demuth "I feel you guys have a ton to answer for, and intend to see you held accountable"

      =>no one argues that the crusades/inquisitions and on going se xual abuse scandals were/are terrible, however, just to keep things in perspective.

      – Christians are THE MOST CHARITABLE people on the face of the earth
      – Despite frequent accusations that "religion is the source of all wars", it has been demonstrated that it accounts for only 7% of wars since recorded history.
      – The total number of people dying in all inquisitions/witch trials totals less than 100,000. 3million people were killed under Pol Pot

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

      "The total number of people dying in all inquisitions/witch trials totals less than 100,000. 3million people were killed under Pol Pot"

      Yeah well, that is well and good as long as you were not one of the 100,000.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Patrick

      Yea I know the type. My Step-father used to try and make up for beating us and our mother by buying us nice toys after too.

      Pol Pot was an Atheist (debatable) the difference is he didn’t kill in the name of Atheism nub. He did so for political reasons. Education is key.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      @ Chad
      Name ONE war that doesn't have religion as it's underpinning!

      December 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • William Demuth


      So the whole Holocaust was Muslims killing Muslims?

      Christianity is the bloodiest of the cults by far, with victimns well into the hundreds of millions.

      Slavery was Christian. The Holocaust was Christian. The Inquisition was Christian.

      It goes on all day

      December 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ William Demuth
      I agree with many of your posts however you have made one very large error. Slavery is not Christian. Slavery in fact existed thousands of years BEFORE Christianity. Along with hundred is not thousands of ‘gods’.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Chad

      @Sean Russell "That's a pretty warped version of christianity. 1) We were taught that we should 'imitate Christ' in everything we do. 2) Your version sounds like "Jesus died for my sins, so I got a free pass to do whatever I want.""

      =>you are missing the point:
      1) We are encouraged and exhorted to imitate Christ, however my point is that falling short in behavior makes one no less a Christian.
      2) Jesus DID die for my sins, so I DO get a free pass, however the bible is clear that we are not to trample under foot the sacrifice that Jesus made and not to grieve the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

      December 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Chad, you do NOT get a free pass from your fellow human beings! We WILL kick your ass!

      December 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Chad

      @Emilio Dumphuque "Name ONE war that doesn't have religion as it's underpinning!"

      WWI, WWII, Civil war, Russian/French revolutions.. etc.. .etc... 7% of all wars are rooted in religious reasons.. Fact...

      "Concluding this essay, it becomes apparent that those who make the claim "religion has been the cause of more wars than any other factor in history" may speak from ignorance or have ulterior motives for the as sertion" US Army web site

      "In their Encyclopedia of Wars, authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod attempt a comprehensive listing of wars in history. They doc ument 1763 wars overall, of which 123 (7%) have been clas sified to involve a religious conflict" – Wikipedia

      December 28, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Chad

      @William Demuth "So the whole Holocaust was Muslims killing Muslims?"
      =>The roots of the holocaust were feelings of Aryan racial superiority and some extreme German nationalism. While Christian leaders of the time can and should be excoriated for remaining silent, the roots of the Holocaust were not religious, but racial.

      @William Demuth "Christianity is the bloodiest of the cults by far, with victimns well into the hundreds of millions"
      =>as noted before, the facts do not bear you out. 7% of all wars, using the DATA from wikipedia, 7% of all wars gets a total of 22,355,025 people killed in religious wars.

      What is your data source for "hundreds of millions".. let me guess,, you just "know it is"

      As to whether or not Christian religious wars have killed more than Islamic religious wars, one would have to go thru those and count them up.. Remember the Crusades were Christian vs Muslim so that's a tie..

      Slavery was Christian. The Holocaust was Christian. The Inquisition was Christian.

      It goes on all day

      December 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Chad

      didnt mean to include those last 2 lines in that previous post.. namely:
      "Slavery was Christian. The Holocaust was Christian. The Inquisition was Christian.

      It goes on all day"

      cut and paste error..

      December 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  17. Caliwoman

    Now I know why they burned the witches, they wanted all the brooms for their Nativity Church brawl.

    December 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  18. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    "Oh. Your. God!" frikin' hilarious! Priest rumble!

    December 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  19. judgmental

    If church was this interesting, I'd ACTUALLY go!

    December 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  20. kevin

    I just couldn't help but giggle while I was watching this video.......Really?......Really? What do these guys have to fight about. Then again if my life existed of a daily sausage fest I might be prone to a little frustration.

    December 28, 2011 at 3:42 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.