Ottawa Citizen, Canada
Dec 29 2011

Holy Nativity! Clergy brawl at Bethlehem church cleanup

Police break up rival monks with brooms

By Mark Weiss

The annual Christmas cleanup at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity
turned into a mass brawl Wednesday as rival clergy from the Greek
Orthodox and Armenian denominations attacked each other with brooms.

Club-wielding Palestinian police stormed into the church to break up
the fight which involved about 100 priests and monks.

Bethlehem police Lt.-Col. Khaled al-Tamimi said order was quickly restored.

"No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God," he said.

The Church of the Nativity is jointly administered by the Latin,
Orthodox and Armenian churches, each of which controls and jealously
guards a part of the holy site.

No changes, however minor, can be made to the 6thcentury holy site
made without the approval of all three denominations.

The result has been that the Church of the Nativity has fallen into a
dangerous state of disrepair.

Last month, after years of arguments, the sects finally reached
agreement to replace the church's leaking roof. The renovations,
planned for next year, will mark the first major repairs in 150 years.

Every year the different denominations co-operate in the annual
Christmas cleaning operation which occurs between the Latin Christmas
and early January, when the Orthodox sects celebrate Christmas.

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.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress