Dec 28 2011

Clerics clash in Church of the Nativity

(Reuters) - A Christmas cleaning of the Church of the Nativity turned
into scuffles on Wednesday between rival Christian clerics zealously
guarding denominational turf at the holy site.

Brooms and fists flew inside the church marking the birthplace of
Jesus as some 100 priests and monks of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian
Apostolic churches brawled.

Palestinian police, bending their heads to squeeze through the
church's low "door of humility," rushed in with batons flailing to
restore order.

"It was a trivial problem that ... occurs every year," said police
Lieutenant-Colonel Khaled al-Tamimi. "Everything is all right and
things have returned to normal," he said. "No one was arrested because
all those involved were men of God."

Administration of the 6th century Bethlehem church, the oldest in the
Holy Land, is shared by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian

Any perceived encroachment of jurisdictional boundaries within the
church can set off a row, especially during the annual cleaning for
Orthodox Christmas celebrations, which will be held next week.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta;
Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)