Dozens poisoned after drinking holy water

Russian Orthodox Church

More than 100 Russian Orthodox believers are suffering from poisoning in Irkutsk, Siberia after drinking holy water taken from wells in and around a local church during religious ceremonies of Epiphany.

Those affected are being treated in hospital for acute intestinal pain, according to Sky News. A Russian official said a total of 204 people, including children, required some medical treatment. However, Church officials denied the poisoning cases are due to sanctified water.

Many Russians consider any water obtained on Epiphany (baptism of Christ) to be holy and have healing properties. The water consecrated in churches is often stored by believers for long a long time.

The Russian Orthodox Church has over 135 million members worldwide and is growing numerically since late 1980s.