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Monks brawl before religious ceremony

  • Story Highlights
  • Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks punch and kick each other
  • Police called to break up fight at Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem
  • The site is believed to be where Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection occurred
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By Shira Medding
CNN
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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.

Israeli police scuffle with an Armenian monk Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

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.

"We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through ... and establish a right that they don't have," a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye told the AP. Photo See scenes from the brawl »

Many among the dozens of monks came away with cuts and bruises, said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

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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. Video Watch police subdue the crowd in the church »

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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