Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem
Tuesday September 28, 2004
Fistfights broke out yesterday between Christians gathered on the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ.
“There was lots of hitting going on. Police were hit, monks were hit … there were people with bloodied faces,” said a witness in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, reputed to be Golgotha where Christ was crucified, and the site of the tomb where he was buried.
The punch-up erupted during a procession to mark the discovery in 327 by Helena, mother of Constantine, of the True Cross.
A Greek Orthodox cleric said Franciscans had left open their chapel door in what was taken as disrespect. Priests and worshippers hit one another at the doorway dividing Orthodox and Franciscans, said a police spokesman.
Arrests were made but nobody was seriously hurt.
“This is supposed to be a festive time,” said Pandelemos, an Orthodox cleric afterward at the site of the tomb.
“We are all Christians, and there is nothing to fight about,” said David Khoury, a Franciscan.
The row was the latest in a series of disputes at the church, where six Christian denominations guard rights laid down in an Ottoman law of 1757 to separate parts of the Romanesque building, built by Crusaders in 1149 on the earlier Byzantine basilica.
Two years ago, Ethiopian and Copt monks threw stones at each other over rights to the church roof.