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Catholic churches in Italy have installed automatic holy water dispensers to help reduce the spread of swine flu.
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.
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. Luciano Marabese, who invented the dispenser, said he did so out of concern that fear of swine flu was eroding traditions. And he is now blessing himself all the way to the bank. "After all the news that some churches, like Milan's cathedral, were suspending the use of holy water fonts as a measure against swine flu, demands for my invention shot to the stars. I have received orders from all over the world," he said.