An Italian inventor, Luciano Marabese has combined faith and ingenuity to come up with a way to keep church traditions alive for the faithful without the fear of contracting swine flu -- an electronic holy water dispenser.

He said he did so out of concern that fear of swine flu was eroding traditions.

The terracotta dispenser, used in the northern town of Fornaci di Briosco, functions like an automatic soap dispenser in public washrooms -- a churchgoer waves his or her hand under a sensor and the machine spurts out holy water.

It has been a bit of a novelty. People initially were a bit shocked by this technological innovation but then they welcomed it with great enthusiasm and joy. The members of this parish have got used to it, said Father Pierangelo Motta.

Catholics entering and leaving churches usually dip their hands into fonts full of holy water -- which has been blessed by a priest -- and make the sign of the cross.

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 said that after the news spread that some churches, like Milan's cathedral, were suspending the use of holy water fonts as a measure against swine flu, demands for his invention has been flourishing . He is taking orders from all over the world.