The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, tradition has it, is located on the spot where Jesus was born. The church itself honors the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, who called all humanity to love one another as they do themselves. What better place to have a recurring brawl between His followers?
On Thursday, dozens of priests and cleaners were scrubbing the church ahead of the Armenian and Orthodox Christmas, celebrated in early January. Thousands of tourists visited the church this week for Christmas celebrations.
But the clean-up turned ugly after some of the Orthodox faithful stepped inside the Armenian church’s section, touching off a scuffle between about 50 Greek Orthodox and 30 Armenians.
Palestinian police, armed with batons and shields, quickly formed a human cordon to separate the two sides so the cleaning could continue, then ordered an Associated Press photographer out of the church.
It’s not the first time the keepers of a holy site in the Holy Land have come to blows. Unfortunately, the close quarters of these sites creates turf wars that are the antithesis of the sites themselves and everything they represent. It’s a kind of sacrilege, committed by those who should most know better. It demeans their message, and it embarrasses every Christian around the world.
The governing bodies of these sects should replace every last priest involved in this scuffle, and should apologize to each other for fistfighting in the birthplace of our Lord. Shame on all of them.