Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rival monks clash at Bethlehem

Bethlehem, Dec. 27, 2007 ( - Rival groups of Orthodox clerics clashed inside the basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem on December 27, forcing Palestinian police to restore order.

Priests of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches came to blows during a dispute over the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions within the basilica, located on the site of Christ's birth. The confrontation arose as the two groups were cleaning the church in preparation for the Orthodox observance of the Nativity in January.

Administration of the Nativity basilica is shared by Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic clerics. The relationships among the different groups have frequently been contentious, and there have been frequent disputes over jurisdiction in spite of a highly detailed agreement.

The Franciscan monks who represent the Catholic Church at the basilica were not involved in the December 27 melee. The Orthodox and Armenian clerics were cleaning the building after thousands of Catholics had joined in their own Christmas celebration there.

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