Monks brawl before religious ceremony
JERUSALEM (CNN) — An unusual sight greeted Jerusalem police as they entered one of Christianity’s holiest sites Sunday morning: dozens of monks punching and kicking each other in a massive brawl.
Monks from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian denominations were preparing for a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City when a disagreement led to a full-fledged fistfight.
The fight began when Armenian clergy were holding a procession to commemorate the finding of the cross believed to have been used in the crucifixion of Jesus, according to The Associated Press.
The Greek members of the clergy wanted one of their monks present, the AP reported, for fear that the procession would undermine their claim to an ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus.
The two sides could not agree, and when the Armenians tried to begin the procession, the Greek monks stepped in and the fighting began, the AP reported.
Officers were called to the scene to break up the brawl. They detained two monks, one from each denomination, Rosenfeld said.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is thought to be built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Rivalries between the different sects that share control of the church often lead to tensions.
Once again, monks come to blows at Church of Holy Sepulcher
The feud revolves around a demand by the Greek Orthodox to post a monk inside the Edicule – the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus – during the Armenian procession. The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way.
After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli police holding assault rifles and equipped with riot gear, standing beside Golgotha, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and the long smooth stone marking the place where tradition holds his body was laid out.
[…]The legendary ladder at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.
© Janet Hein-Hudson
The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulcher.
The Israeli government has long wanted to build a fire exit in the church, which regularly fills with thousands of pilgrims and has only one main door, but the plan is on hold because the sects cannot agree where the exit will be built.
In another example, a ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down. More recently, a spat between Ethiopian and Coptic Christians is delaying badly needed renovations to a rooftop monastery that engineers say could collapse.
Control of the ancient church is divided between six Christian sects. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.
The fight is part of a growing rivalry over religious rights at the church.