‘Men of God’ attack each other with brooms at Jesus’ birth site

Scuffles have broken out between rival groups of Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics over a turf war in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

The BBC says

Bemused tourists looked on as about 100 priests fought with brooms while cleaning the church in preparation for Orthodox Christmas, on 7 January. Palestinian police armed with batons and shields broke up the clashes. Groups of priests have clashed before in the church, built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.

Reuters explains

Administration of the 6th century Bethlehem church, the oldest in the Holy Land, is shared by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics.

Any perceived encroachment of jurisdictional boundaries within the church can set off a row, especially during the annual cleaning for Orthodox Christmas celebrations, which will be held next week.

According to the Associated Press

A fragile status quo governs relations among the denominations at the ancient church, and to repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, according to accepted practice. That means that letting other sects clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another’s expense. Similar fights have taken place during the same late-December cleaning effort in the past.

Tensions between rival clergy at the church have been a fact of life there for centuries and have often been caught up in international politics.

In the 1800s, friction between the denominations at the church — each backed by foreign powers — became so fraught that Russian Czar Nicholas I deployed troops along the Danube to threaten a Turkish sultan who had been favoring the Catholics over the Orthodox.

Those disagreements threaten the integrity of the church itself, which was originally built 1,500 years ago and parts of which have fallen into disrepair. Although the roof has needed urgent work for decades, and leaking rainwater has ruined much of the priceless artwork inside, a renovation has been delayed all these years by disagreements among the denominations over who would pay.

Only recently, the Palestinian Authority brokered an agreement to move ahead with replacing the roof, and officials hope work will begin in 2012.

Regarding this year’s fight, Reuters quotes police Lieutenant-Colonel Khaled al-Tamimi as saying:

“It was a trivial problem that … occurs every year.

Everything is all right and things have returned to normal.

No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God.”

Is the Pope a pirate?

Is software licensing theft still a problem? Is the Pope a Catholic? Or perhaps more aptly, is the Pope a pirate? The answers are yes, yes and probably not.

That said, when security software vendor AVAST decided to track down exactly where one 14 user enterprise software license had ended up after it was discovered on a file-sharing site, it must have been somewhat surprised to find that it cropped up a couple of times in Vatican City.


Quit Facebook, pastor tells church officers

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Israel rabbi says it’s kosher to sleep with the enemy

Jewish law allows women to sleep with the enemy in order to get intelligence vital to Israel’s security, a rabbi was quoted as saying in a Israeli newspaper Monday, AFP reports.

The mass-selling Yediot Aharonot quoted an academic article by Ari Shvat, an expert in Jewish law, in which he said it was acceptable to have sex with “terrorists” in order to obtain information leading to their arrest.

The advice appeared to be directed at Israel’s Mossad spy agency, and is an exception to the traditional religious prohibition of deception and sex outside of marriage. [Read more...]

Last ‘sin-eater’ celebrated with church service

The restored grave of the last known “sin-eater” in England has been at the centre of a special service in a Shropshire village churchyard.

Campaigners raised £1,000 to restore the grave of Richard Munslow, who was buried in Ratlinghope in 1906.

Sin-eaters were generally poor people paid to eat bread and drink beer or wine over a corpse, in the belief they would take on the sins of the deceased.

Frowned upon by the church, the custom mainly died out in the 19th Century. [Read more...]

Hindu gods can’t trade in shares: court

An Indian court has ruled that Hindu gods cannot deal in stocks and shares, reports said Saturday, after an application for trading accounts to be set up in their names.

Two judges at the Bombay High Court on Friday rejected a petition from a private religious trust to open accounts in the names of five deities, including the revered elephant-headed god, Ganesha.

“Trading in shares on the stock market requires certain skills and expertise and to expect this from deities would not be proper,” judges P.B. Majumdar and Rajendra Sawant said, according to Indian newspapers. [Read more...]