Agence France Presse
Dec 28 2011

Cleaning clergy brawl in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories - An unholy row erupted between
Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy on Wednesday over the cleaning of
the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, an AFP correspondent said.

Following Christmas celebrations, dozens of black-clad clerics from
both churches, armed with brooms and cleaning materials, began to work
on different parts of the church, built over the site where Jesus
Christ is believed to have been born.

But an Armenian priest supervising the work thought that a broom held
by a Greek Orthodox priest encroached on their space, and angry words
swiftly became a fight.

Palestinian policemen at the scene intervened and the priests resumed
their cleaning, an AFP correspondent said. A second fight was also

No one was hurt in the brawl, and police made no arrests.

The Church of the Nativity, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem's Old City, is shared by various branches of Christianity,
each of which controls and jealously guards a part of the holy site.

Scuffles often erupt between Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests
during joint religious or cleaning ceremonies. In 2007, seven priests
were injured in a post-Christmas cleaning fight in the church.

The Church of the Nativity is built on the site where Christians
believe Jesus was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago after
Mary and Joseph were turned away at an inn.