A priest today described how he feared parishioners' lives were in danger when a fight broke out in his church during midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Monsignor Vincent Harvey said heavy chairs were thrown down an aisle at St Edmund's Church, Southampton, England, during the brawl in the middle of the service on Saturday night.
The priest managed to continue the Mass to his shocked but uninjured congregation after police arrived to arrest those involved.
Fr Vincent said: "There was loud talking going on at the back but I just assumed some people had had a bit too much to drink.
"But then about three or four minutes later, there were scuffles going on. Then it was obvious it was more than just a scuffle, there was actually a fight going on.
"People were frightened that it was happening. If they'd hit anybody they could have been badly injured." He said that stewards had helped to remove the people from the church, putting their own lives in danger. Fr Vincent said the people involved in the fight were not regular churchgoers.
He added that the disagreement was between the people involved and not targeted at the congregation. Most of the 350 people in the church stayed to hear the rest of the Mass, although some shaken churchgoers went home.