Many churches had suspended the tradition of keeping holy water in open fonts into which people dipped their hands following the outbreak of the H1N1 virus.
But an Italian inventor has combined faith and ingenuity to create the electronic terracotta dispenser, which is now being used in the northern town of Fornaci di Briosco. It functions like an automatic soap dispenser in public lavatories – a churchgoer waves his or her hand under a sensor and the machine spurts out holy water.
“It has been a bit of a novelty. People initially were a bit shocked by this technological innovation but then they welcomed it with great enthusiasm and joy,” said Father Pierangelo Motta. Catholics entering and leaving churches usually dip their hands into fonts full of holy water – which has been blessed by a priest – and make the sign of the cross.
But fear of contracting the H1N1 virus has led many in Italy – where some 15 people have died of swine flu – not to dip their hands in the communal water font.
For what it’s worth, according to the Centers for Disease Control, “Influenza viruses infect the human upper respiratory tract. There has never been a documented case of influenza virus infection associated with water exposure.”