Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Holy Water--It may be holy but is it sterile?

~from Yorkshire Evening Post (an ecumenical problem, it appears)

A Leeds nurse has warned holy water could give sick patients serious infections.
Gillian Hodgson, lead nurse in infection control at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, warned that patients could be harmed by micro-organisms in holy water.

She was speaking at a fringe meeting of the Royal College of Nursing conference in Harrogate about the implications of religious practice on infection control.

Ms Hodgson, according to the Nursing Standard, said a child in a paediatric oncology unit had developed the bacterial infection, pseudomonas, after his lips were wiped with holy water.
The bacterium mainly affects ill people and can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as pneumonia.

She added that sprinkling holy water close to the catheters of people who had gone through chemotherapy treatment for cancer was especially unsafe, while even those patients whose immune systems were not weakened could experience gastrointestinal problems.

Moulana Ilyas Dalal, Muslim chaplain at Dewsbury and District Hospital, told the meeting: "Religion and health care are part and parcel of human life."

He added that nurses should contact hospital chaplains or religious leaders if there were issues with religious practices.

Gwen Horn, ward manager at Cygnet Hospital in Bradford, said a mental health patient's condition deteriorated when his family brought in "blessed" water. She said: "The water was analysed and found to be spiked with drugs."

A local imam then deemed that the water was not necessary for the patient and it was confiscated.
Holy water is important to people of many different faiths and can often simply be ordinary water which has been blessed by a holy person.

Water from some religious shrines and wells can also be seen as holy with special powers, such as water from Lourdes in France which is thought by Roman Catholics to have healing powers. Muslims also believe that water from the Well of Zamzam in Mecca is blessed.

Akhlaq Mir, chairman of the Al-Hassan Education Centre in Harehills, Leeds, said in Islam water from Zamzam was meant for drinking and was not curative.

"We believe as Muslims that holy water is for drinking and we take it to drink," he said.
"It does purify your body, but doesn't take infections away. It's purely for drinking."

John Grady, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Leeds, said holy water was like any other kind.
"It's mainly used for blessing people, therefore for external use, so should not be infectious to anybody, but it would be right to be aware that holy water can carry bacteria naturally just like any other water can."

Earlier this month, bottles of holy water blessed in Ireland had to be replaced after the local water supply was contaminated with cryptosporidium bacteria.

Traditionally 3,000 bottles of holy water are blessed at Tuam Cathedral in Co Galway, but this year mineral water was used instead of tap because people occasionally drank the holy water.

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