Experts from the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna analyzed the water in 21 holy springs in Austria and in 18 fonts in Vienna at various times during the year, the Daily Mail reported.
They found that 86 percent of water samples from holy sources contain fecal matter, and every milliliter of holy water contained up to 62 million bacteria, none of it safe to drink.
Not surprisingly, the busier the church, the more bacteria it had in its font from people’s hands.
In addition to E. coli bacteria and enterococci, the holy springs contained Campylobacter, which can cause inflammatory diarrhea, the Mail reported. Nitrates from agriculture also made the water unsafe for drinking.
“We need to warn people against drinking from these sources,” said Alexander Kirschner, a microbiologist at the Medical University of Vienna.
He recommends changing the holy water often and adding salt to the fonts to reduce the chance of bacteria thriving, the Mail reported.
Wow! Time to talk to our priests about how often the Holy Water is changed! I know for a fact that at the chapel where I assisted the sacristine, only enough Holy Water was put out for each day's Mass. What was left would evaporate before the next day so each day was "fresh" Holy Water. Maybe this is a European cultural problem? Note, the study was from the University of Vienna, and may not apply globally.
I cannot speak beyond my own experiences at the moment - have any of you been a sacristine or assisted? What was the practice at your parish? I also know for a fact that salt is used during the initial blessing of Holy Water too, maybe those sampled did not use enough salt during that consecration?