Over 200 people are suffering from poisoning in the east Siberian city of Irkutsk caused by “holy water” taken from wells during religious ceremonies of Epiphany or baptism of Christ on January 19th 2010. Around 117 people, including 48 children, were in the hospital on Monday complaining of acute intestinal pain.
The Orthodox Church celebrates Epiphany, when water is believed to become holy and have healing properties. The water sanctified in churches is often stored by believers for long periods. Believers believe that the water in the wells, ponds and even the kitchen sink near Archangel Michael Church on Epiphany becomes holy and has healing powers.
Local regulators checked the water and found higher concentration of chloride and nitrates in the water near the church.
The regulator said tests showed that water from the city’s Archangel Michael Church corresponded to sanitary norms, but samples taken from two nearby wells and a swampy lake revealed the concentration of chloride and nitrate was two times above the norm.
“Water from a pond and underground wells does not correspond to hygienic norms,” the regulator said.
The regulator said 18 people who drank water taken from the wells near the church, which is located in an industrial zone between two major thoroughfares, have been diagnosed with rotavirus-caused gastroenteritis.
The church officials deny the claim.
The head of the church’s Sunday school called media reports on the mass poisoning a provocation.
“I believe holy water could not cause all that,” Lyudmila Belyayeva was quoted by Newsland portal as saying. “These are lies against our church which is very popular. Somebody wants people to begin harboring doubts.”
Hopefully people will recover and the local regulation might be more strict on checking water. Pollution seems to have blasphemed the holy water!
Believers take water from churches on January 19.
Many believe any water, even from the taps from the kitchen sink, poured or bottled by Christians on Epiphany becomes holy.
The secretary of the Irkutsk diocese, Father Maximilian, said an ice hole was made in the lake for bathing, in line with an old Russian tradition, not for drinking, Babr.ru and other Russian online editions reported. He said water from the lake could have caused poisoning.
Local investigators are continuing to look into the mass poisoning.