O Little (Fightin’) Town Of Bethlehem

The Christmas spirit didn’t last very long at the Church Of The Nativity, the church built on the site where most Christians believe Christ was born:

At one of oldest churches in the world, built over the cave that tradition marks as the place Jesus was born, Franciscan, Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests have brawled annually around Christmas Day for more than a century.

This year was no different.

Scuffles between the rival groups of priests broke out during a cleaning of the church in preparation for Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7. The BBC reportsthat about 100 priests fought with brooms as tourists looked on, until Palestinian police broke up the clashes. No one was seriously injured, and there were no arrests.

“No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God,” Bethlehem police Lt. Col. Khaled al-Tamimi told Reuters. Tamimi called the incident “a trivial problem that . . . occurs every year”

In past years, the priests have brawled over who owns which altars, passageways and chandeliers, and how to do repairs, according to news accounts. In 2010, the fight broke out while priests were trying to repair the church’s rotting, collapsing roof.

Via Rod Dreher, here’s some video:

This is all the more silly considering that the doctrinal differences between these groups, especially between the Orthodox and Catholic communities, are relatively minor when you get right down it.

FILED UNDER: Religion, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. David says:

    Doug, when it comes to religion, there are no small differences.

  2. This is true

  3. DRS says:

    Time to pop “Life of Brian” back into the dvd player and fire it up…

  4. John Burgess says:

    These brawls have been going on for centuries. It seems the media has institutional amnesia if it thinks them particularly newsworthy. I can recall coverage of them going back at least to the 1960s in publications like the NYT and Time Magazine.

  5. @John Burgess:

    I don’t think it’s so much that stuff like this is new that gets the coverage as it is that monks and priests fighting with brooms just isn’t something you see every day.

  6. John Burgess says:

    @Doug Mataconis: True. It’s just every few years around Christmas time. Sort of like the Yankees winning a pennant. Not really news, but it fills the pages.

  7. @John Burgess:

    Hey now the Yankees winning the pennant is an event that is always celebrated in story and song throughout the universe 😀