Rival Christian monks clash in brawl at Holy Sepulchre of Jesus

MIDEAST-JERUSALEM-RELIGION-HOLY SEPULCHRE-CONFLICT

Israeli policemen break a fight between Armenian and Greek Orthodox clergy men at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s old city on November 9, 2008, after violence broke out between them during the Armenian feast of the Holy Cross. Greek and Armenian Orthodox faithful kicked, punched and hit each other with candles today in the Holy Sepulchre, the church built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried and resurrected. Custody of the church itself is shared by the Greeks, Armenians and Roman Catholics, all of whom jealously guard their responsibilities under a fragile network of agreements hammered out over the centuries.

AP | Nov 9, 2008

Monks brawl at Christian holy site in Jerusalem

By MATTI FRIEDMAN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity’s holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus’ tomb.

The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The brawling began during a procession of Armenian clergymen commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus.

The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule — the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus — and give the Armenians a claim to the site.

The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way, sparking the brawl.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were forced to intervene after fighting was reported. They arrested two monks, one from each side, he said.

A bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead were both taken away in handcuffs after scuffling with dozens of riot police.

MIDEAST-JERUSALEM-RELIGION-HOLY SEPULCHRE-CONFLICT

Greek orthodox monks with bruises and blood on their faces are seen at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s old city on November 9, 2008, after violence broke out between Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy men during the Armenian feast of the Holy Cross. Greek and Armenian Orthodox faithful kicked, punched and hit each other with candles today in the Holy Sepulchre, the church built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was buried and resurrected. Custody of the church itself is shared by the Greeks, Armenians and Roman Catholics, all of whom jealously guard their responsibilities under a fragile network of agreements hammered out over the centuries.

Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.

“We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through … and establish a right that they don’t have,” said a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye.

The monk, who gave his name as Serafim, said he sustained the wound when an Armenian punched him from behind and broke his glasses.

Father Pakrat of the Armenian Patriarchate said the Greek demand was “against the status quo arrangement and against the internal arrangement of the Holy Sepulcher.” He said the Greeks attacked first.

Archbishop Aristarchos, the chief secretary of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, denied his monks initiated the violence.

After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli riot police holding assault rifles, 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 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 sects cannot agree where the exit will be built.

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.

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4 responses to “Rival Christian monks clash in brawl at Holy Sepulchre of Jesus

  1. Mosh pit at goth concert?

  2. homework

  3. As an Armenian, the picture of those young Greek monks with wounds all over their faces makes me sick to my stomach!

    Armenians and Greeks share a long history and a common cultural identity. They have for long lived and banded together as brothers in the Ottoman Empire, and both shared and suffered the same fate at the hands of the Tukrs.

    If Armenians and Greeks get into fight, then this just shows you how mad religion can drive people.

  4. Arthur,

    Religion drives people to fanaticism as it inevitably leads to artificial divisions like “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Muslim” and thus feelings of superiority as in “our way is the best way”, or “our way is the ONLY way” and competing unquestioned dogmas. Or within Christianity: “I’m a Greek Orthodox, we believe thus and so, the true religion.” and “I’m Armenian Orthodox, we believe slightly differently, because we are the true way.”

    And at the bottom of all of this is that the whole thing is based on myths and stories that are unprovable and merely accepted on faith, usually out of fear.

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