The annual cleaning of one of Christianity’s holiest churches deteriorated into a brawl between rival clergy yesterday, as dozens of monks feuding over sacred space at the Church of the Nativity battled each other with brooms until police intervened.

The ancient church, built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, is shared by three Christian denominations – Roman Catholics, Armenians and Greek Orthodox. Yesterday’s fight erupted between Greek and Armenian clergy, with both sides accusing each other of encroaching on parts of the West Bank church to which they lay claim.

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