Contaminated holy water hospitalizes 117 Russians

Posted Jan 25, 2010 by Oliver VanDervoort
More than 100 Russian Orthodox worshippers have been sent to the hospital after drinking holy water during celebrations in the eastern city of Irkutsk.
A holy water receptacle in a church
A holy water receptacle in a church
by Leo Reynolds
In all, 117 people, including 48 children, had to be hospitalized after drinking apparently contaminated water in and around a local church while celebrating Epiphany, according to Vladimir Salovarov, a spokesman for the Irkutsk Investigative Committee.
Salovarov said that a total of 204 people had required some level of medical treatment after consuming the water, which came from a stagnant lake located near the town. At the moment, Russian officials don't know exactly what was in the water that caused the illnesses.
Many Russians consider any water obtained on Epiphany – which they celebrate on Jan. 19 – to be holy.
Epiphany is the Eastern Orthodoxy celebration of the revelation that God made man in his own image, and the celebrated events can include the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus' childhood events including his baptism in the Jordan river, up to the miracle at the Marriage of Cana, where Jesus reportedly turned water into wine.