A mass fight broke out between rival priests at Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus yesterday.
Riot police were forced to restore order inside of the Church of the Nativity after a brawl that broke out among Armenian and Greek Orthodox clergymen.
About 100 priests and monks armed with brooms and dressed in their traditional robes clashed during the annual cleaning of one of Christianity’s holiest churches.
The dispute started over the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions inside the church after a clergyman of one order – either Greek Orthodox or Armenian Apostolic – accidentally pushed his broom into space ‘controlled’ by the other group.
According to the accepted practice, to repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, which means that letting other groups clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another’s expense.
The church was built over the grotto where it is believed that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus and is shared by three Christian denominations – Roman Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox. The relationships among the different groups have frequently been contentious with similar scuffles having broken out in previous years.