Brooms landed on shoulders and backs, fists met noses and cheeks and no so holy insults tempted the ears of believers when Greek Orthodox priests clashed with Armenian clergymen and Franciscan monks over jurisdiction in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. The traditional cleaning of the church turned into an ugly brawl among 100 priests and monks, when a priest accidentally (?) ‘pushed’ his broom into the space belonging to another denomination. The holy men forgot their Christian manners of love and peace and started to fight against each other. Other sources claim that the Greek Orthodox men went to clean before the Armenian and the Catholics had finished their duty.
According to Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, three priests and two monks got injured and two fingers were broken in the struggle to keep the status quo and some Nativity stone tablets within its jurisdiction.
The Palestinian police had to invervene with batons and bring the priests back to world order.
The rivalry between denominations is decades old. The Holy Sites in the Holy Land are shared by the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian and the Roman Catholic Churches. The spaces are zealously and jealously been guarded by each denomination, then the revenues by visiting tourists are amounting billions each year. Brawl is almost a tradition between Greek orthodox and Armenians especially in Easter time, when fists decide who will receive first the Holy Light of the Resurrection.
“The 6th century Nativity Church in Bethlehem is the oldest in the Holy Land and a very fragile status quo governs relations among the three denominations. To repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, according to accepted practice.
That means that letting other sects clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another’s expense. Tensions between rival clergy at the church have been a fact of life for centuries and the site has often been caught up in international politics.” (Daily Mail )
Video: The BBC version
The police had to make the experience of how it is to deal with angry clergymen!
Video: The Al Jazeera Version
At the end, Peace returned in the Nativity Church and the calmed-down clergymen are going to celebrate Christmas next week. They are crazy, these priests, I’m afraid ….