A church in Scotland has installed a contactless holy water dispenser in a bid to keep its congregation safe from the spread of Covid-19. St Francis Xavier in Carfin, just outside Motherwell, has reintroduced the Catholic practice of blessing by Holy Water four months after it was banned as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The water is usually administered by congregants as they enter the church by dipping their hands into a communal 'holy water font' - a vessel placed near the entrance of the church containing water that has been blessed by a member of the clergy.
According to the group that manages the church's media presence, Sancta Familia Media, the new dispenser was donated by a company called 'Lawlor Technologies'.
"Thanks to Paul Lawlor sponsored by Lawlor Technologies who donated this contactless holy water dispenser for our parish church," they tweeted. "We all miss blessing ourselves with Holy Water."
A video taken to demonstrate how the dispenser works has been viewed over 13,000 times on Twitter:
Many replied to the video with positive comments.
"Brilliant innovation in the Church," one person wrote.
"Genius," another added.
One person joked: "I had a wee [woman] blessing herself with the hand sanitiser the other day. Just force of habit," with another replying: "I almost did the opposite, nearly cleansed my hands with the Holy Water before the vigil Mass on Saturday, luckily someone was there to keep me right."
Speaking to Premier, John Mallon from Sancta Familia Media said:
"One of the things that we thought of initially was practical thing was our contactless payment machine for donations, which was set up in the church was very, very well received. That got some professionals thinking of other ways in which we could adapt technology to suit the needs of the churches.
Mallon said a parishioner from the church developed a contactless water dispenser because "he really missed the fact you couldn't bless yourself before entering church... because the holy water fonts have been emptied...no one has been touching them".
As for the new hand-free method, Mallon added that "parishioners have taken to it like ducks to holy water".
Mallon continued: "Pope Francis always speaks about being creative. And I suppose he was talking about evangelization. But you know, this is another form of creativity which was received from professionals for ourselves to meet the needs of the current climate.
"There is so much demand for the machines, which is interesting...they are available on our website if people do want to buy one of the six that have been made. I think they'll go very quickly to be honest."
Listen to Premier's interview with John Mallon here: