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. JohnR


    December 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  2. Jim

    I wish there was a video. I have competing visions of badasses swinging brooms like pool ques in Roadhouse, then I picture a bunch of skinny, pale virgins cat fighting like teenage girls. I'm afraid it's probably the latter.

    December 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jim

      Oops, I guess there is video. I didn't see it on my mobile feed. They sure don't wage holy war like in the good ole' days. Disappointing.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  3. The Phist

    Holy Balls this is funny.

    December 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • clearfog

      ROFL – You couldn't make this stuff up. Maybe Mel Brooks could. Blazing Brooms.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • The Maurey Povich Bible Show

      Take THAT, you BRUTE.

      December 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  4. Tom Cruise

    This would never happen at the Church of Scientology.

    December 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • The Phist

      Damn right it wouldn't. You'd get sued!

      December 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Tom.....Tom? What are you DOING WITH THAT BROOM? Gross! Get out here and fight like a....a......Tom. Ewww, keep you broom away form me!

      December 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jim

      Please come out of the closet Mr. Cruise!

      December 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  5. Mycology

    let me guess... time to blame the jews?

    December 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • clearfog


      December 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  6. derp

    "My jesus can beat up your jesus."

    "Oh yeah you really think so?"

    "Yeah, eat broomstick you heathen"

    December 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  7. Argle Bargle

    Jesus wept.

    December 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • clearfog

      With laughter. Probably even wet his pants.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  8. TJ

    So Christian of them.

    December 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Ted M.


      December 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  9. clearfog

    E Pluribus Broomum

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

      Out of Many – Brooms

      December 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  10. streetsmt

    African or European?

    December 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • clearfog

      This story is hard to swallow.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • derp

      It is a matter of weight atios

      December 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  11. conoclast

    So there's a language barrier of course - were they trash-talking each other in latin?

    December 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Jesus esset, qui con buggered pueris.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  12. clearfog

    Turn the other Greek.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Jay Kay, Minneapolis

    They just should have rode away on their broomsticks.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  14. Yahweh

    The Ottoman Empire nearly overran Europe in the middle ages because the catholics and orthodox were fighting over important issues such as what type of bread to use for communion. I see things haven't changed.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  15. The Lord

    Ahhh my Eunuch, I mean Enoch, I am already laughing. I have been laughing for millenia. The antics of you hairless chimpanzees have amused Me. Just dont get on My bad side.
    Also Jim, I loved the Life of Brian, especially that closing song. Its quite catchy!

    December 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  16. pkfops

    I heard they were trying to mount each other.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • William Demuth

      This made me think of the Linda Blair movie "Born Innocent"

      Johnny in the closet!

      December 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  17. Doledart

    This is why Faith should not be tied to any particular religion. These organizations are run by man, and man is fallible and prone to ruin. Faith or the decision to not have it, needs to be individualistic and not rely on an organization to tell me what is right or wrong. I was raised a Catholic, and have Faith in God, but I in no way have any faith in the Catholic Church.

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

      "These organizations are run by man, and man is fallible and prone to ruin"

      and the bible was written by men....go figure.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Patrick

      Faith by definition is a belief without reason.
      Also known as:
      Schizophrenia: a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by poor emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations (God talking to you), paranoid (Atheist are out to get you!) or bizarre delusions (parting of the Red Sea), or disorganized speech and thinking (speaking in tongues/ belief that prayer does something), and it is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  18. derp

    I would watch priest fights on pay per view. Kind of like when that guy used to make the videos of homeless people fighting.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • clearfog

      Nun Mud Wrestling

      December 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • clearfog

      Just don't get into the habit.

      December 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  19. Jim

    I highly recommend a viewing of 'Life of Brian' to anyone still believing in Jeebus or any of this nonsense. The best film on Christianity, ever. Jesus may have been ok, but we will never know, because dirtbags like these have corrupted it for over two thousand years, and none of you have the answer.

    December 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Biggus Dickus

      Blessed are the cheesemakers!

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

      Jim, the simple truth is, that Jesus had the answer, still has it, and actually He is also the answer. The ones knowing this answer don not need to fight, since they have received something priceless. And the only thing to do with the answer I have is keep it and share with the ones seeking, and then I point them to Jesus

      December 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • William Demuth


      So you have the answers?


      December 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • streetsmt

      I am willing to hear the answer. Please share it (BTW. first, what's the question?).

      December 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • William Demuth

      ANd the question is

      “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

      December 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Really??

      @Eric – If that's the answer to where do babies come from.. That's the wrong answer.

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

      First of all: I spoke about answer ( singular) and this means the answer to the most important question of all: what is the reason and destiny of our existence, or otherwise: where it came from, where it is going to. The answer to that question is Jesus.
      He is the reason of our existence ( though Him we were made) and He is the answer where we are going to ( if we want)
      because He said: I am the way, the truth and the life. So he is the answer to this questions: what is the best way to walk (Jesus) , how do we find the truth (Jesus) and how and where can we really live (Jesus) . And to believe in Him, means to accept Him as saviour ( He saves people of their sins) and Lord , meaning do as He tells, and I believe that if I do that and more people who profess belief in Jesus, than people like Jim hopefully will also say of us we are OK, but that is only because He makes me ok, if He helps me, I can be nice, loverly , patient, humble, cool, hospitable, friendly, enduring. That is what Im working on and praying for, to show sceptical people that its possible to change

      December 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  20. Enoch

    The atheist gangs are laughing now, but the Lord will laugh last, for he sees their day of judgment coming

    December 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • evensteven

      Your Lord sounds like in a fight, he's the kind of guy who has to get in the last punch . . .

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

      The atheist gangs are laughing now, but the Lord will laugh last, for he sees their day of judgment coming

      I'm not afraid. I'll whoop his a ss, toss him out, and hire satan as my second in command. When my time is up here, I'm taking the joint over. Free beer for evreyone.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Enlightened

      Ooooh... we're all so SCARED now! Pathetic weak-willed sheep.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • IceT

      You're seriously posting the term "Atheist Gangs" under an article about 2 christian gangs literally fighting in a church. Surely you jest sir.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Your God was executed the first time he poped in, and he shall be executed again if he ever returns.

      And this time he gets a fourth nail in his forehead, so he stays dead.

      We have learned how to take out zombies more efficiently since the last time he was here.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • J.W

      William is probably the leader of the world's most ruthless atheist gang.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • HK

      Yes, I am laughing. Don't have to be an atheist. These priests brought them down to 3 year old kids level. Shame!

      December 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "William is probably the leader of the world's most ruthless atheist gang."

      LOL atheist gangs.......you want to see a real gang, go to church on sundays

      December 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • whats more likely

      The only reason I am an atheist is because god hasn't proven himself to me. It's not my fault, it's his. Maybe he should be judged when I die. Certainly he would not burn me for eternity for something that is his fault, would he?

      December 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Thanks J.W

      I shall crucify you last!

      December 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • J.W

      I always go to church, but I do not consider myself a gang member.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • J.W

      Oh thank you William, maybe I will already die by the time you get to me.

      December 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Oh, we're laughing all right! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !!!!

      December 28, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • TR6

      Yes, Christianity at its truest and finest

      December 29, 2011 at 5:46 am |
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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.