Not a very nice birthday present for Jesus: Dozens of rival monks brawled at his birthplace today, as the feuding clergy members were performing an annual cleaning of the holy spot. The Church of the Nativity, built over the site where Jesus is believed to have been born in Bethlehem, was being cleaned ahead of next month’s Orthodox Christmas celebrations when the broom brouhaha broke out. Western Christians had already celebrated Christmas in the church.
The church is shared by Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greek Orthodox, between whom a very fragile status quo exists. The Armenians and Greeks accused each other of intruding on one another’s territory inside the church during the cleaning, an annual event that has caused fights in the past. Palestinian security forces broke up the brawl, which featured some monks heaving their brooms at other monks, the AP reports. No serious injuries were reported. (Read more Bethlehem stories.)