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Archive of October 6, 2005

Eucharist is antidote for culture of death, say bishops

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - As the 11th General Synod of bishops continued their fourth day of meetings yesterday in Rome, the idea of the Eucharist, as an antidote to what John Paul II coined as the "culture of death", figured prominently in the remarks of many prelates.

Archbishop Juan Francisco Sarasti Jaramillo C.I.M., of Cali Colombia, said in his address that, "The Eucharist is the response to the negative signs of modern culture. In the first instance, in the face of a culture or anti-culture of death that traffics in arms, builds systems of wide-scale destruction, legalizes abortion and authorizes research on human embryos, Jesus defines and gives Himself to us as 'Bread of Life.'"

"In the second instance," the Archbishop continued, "our culture is marked by hatred and terrorism. ... The Eucharist offers the permanent possibility of reconciliation with God and our brethren, an invitation to find reconciliation among ourselves before worshipping the Lord." 

He added that, "Another modern trait is that of scientific positivism or relativism, yet the Eucharist reaffirms the reality of the 'mystery' and the value of belief and love as a way to knowledge; with Eucharistic faith, upheld by ecclesial tradition and based on the words of the Lord, we have access to real, though imperfect, certainties. Finally, in the face of the solitude and desperation that undermine mankind today, the Eucharist offers us ... profound companionship and a promise of eternal life that fills us with definitive hope."

Likewise, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, who is President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said that "Increasing secularization, as well as the spread of religious indifference and of a 'strange forgetfulness of God' - as the Holy Father Benedict XVI calls it - provoke among many baptized of our time a worrying deterioration, if not even loss, of their own Christian identity.

He stressed that, it is in the Eucharistic celebration where lay Catholics realize the fullness of their Christian roles.

"It is in the Eucharist", he said, "that lay Christians fully realize their participation in the triple mission entrusted to them by Christ: priestly, prophetic and royal. ... As the Holy Father recalled in Cologne, the real revolution that changes the world starts with the Eucharist. ... In this way the Eucharist becomes not only the heartbeat of the Church, but also of the world. For this reason true lay spirituality can only be Eucharistic spirituality."

Bishop Pierre Tran Dinh Tu, of Phu Cuong, in Vietnam added that Eucharistic formation and education has had profound effects on Catholics in his country.

For them, he said, "Eucharistic celebration has special importance. About 80% attend Mass on Sundays, and 15% during week days. On important feasts, such as Christmas and Easter, the number may reach 95%. 

He credited much of this to high-caliber teaching and catechesis programs now being used in the country, adding that, "awareness among the lay faithful was raised and they were invited to study the documents of the Magisterium of the Church on the Eucharist. For the celebrations, the Episcopal conference organized a Eucharistic congress at the national Marian center of Lavang, and there were 500,000 participants."

In short, "Eucharistic worship in Vietnam", he said, "has brought positive effects: religious life has increased, community activities are more animated, fraternal communion is more evident and reciprocal help among families has become more natural and widespread. To sum up, there is reason to hope that Eucharistic devotion will bring many benefits to our country."

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Bishops debate proper respect for Eucharist

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - 243 bishops assembled this morning for the 6th meeting of the 11th General Synod of Bishops being held this week at the Vatican. Pope Benedict was on hand as the morning discussions largely addressed questions of proper respect for the sacredness of the Eucharist, specifically in liturgy and reception, and the broader implications thereof.

Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, Prelate of the Personal Prelature of the apostolate, Opus Dei, cited the 'Instrumentum Laboris' document, from which the bishops are working which, he said, "highlights the importance of a sense of the sacred in celebrating the Eucharist."

"We should", he suggested, "study practical ways to help the faithful to a clearer understanding of the sacredness of Eucharistic sacrifice. ... It would therefore be useful, on the basis of the Instruction 'Redemptionis sacramentum,' to try to remove abuses that harm the sacred nature of Eucharistic celebrations, and to rethink certain regulations which may be interpreted and applied in an abusive fashion."

"For example," he said, "I suggest reviewing the appropriateness of Eucharistic ceremonies in which there is such an excessive number of concelebrants as to make the dignified celebration of the liturgy impossible; and re-evaluating whether communion should actually be given to all participants in a Mass where great numbers of believers are present, when such general distribution may harm the dignity of worship."

On a broader level, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, England added that "An impoverished appreciation of the irreplaceable nature of Eucharistic sacrifice also has obvious implications for understandings of the priesthood. Facilitating the reception of Holy Communion becomes as relevant and important as being present at the celebration of the Mass. We need to re‑connect the reception of Holy Communion with the offering of the Mass through which we are caught up into Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

"Holy Communion", he said, "properly belongs to the Mass as the fruit of a sacramental act in which we encounter Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In this discussion the value of the place of Eucharistic adoration becomes all the more important for our prayer and contemplation. Christ's presence and His offering are united, flowing from and pointing towards the Mass, that sacramental celebration where Christ's offering of sacrifice and presence in Holy Communion are held in rightful unity."

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Married men to be ordained? Not a solution says Cardinal Simonis

Vatican City, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - Some prelates expressed grave concern over a lack of priests in their various parts of the world, resulting in a separation from the Eucharist.

Bishop Arnold Orowae, Coadjutor of Wabag, Papua New Guinea, particularly stressed this point saying that "Experiences of injustice, violence, corruption, poverty, etc., show that there is a separation between the Eucharist and life. Thus the real saving and transforming presence of Jesus in the Eucharist should not be understood vaguely and taken lightly but Catholics should be serious in their faith, with due respect and adoration."

"How", he asked however, "can this be true for communities who live in the remote villages that do not have the opportunity for frequent celebration and reception of the Eucharist?"

“This poses the question, what kind of priest do we need in our situation? Does one need years of intellectual formation in philosophy and theology to give needed service to the poor people in the remote areas who may not equal his intellectual capabilities?” he asked.

"The issue here", he said, "is not having more vocations, but justice and equality for all the children of God, having the right to make the Eucharist the center of their lives by celebrating and receiving it as often as they can."

"Should the Church", he asked, "allow for mature Christian men who are strong in faith, very committed, and have the respect of the people, to be easily trained to preside at the Eucharistic celebration, which will make it easy for the people to participate in the Eucharist, so that the importance and centrality of the Eucharist becomes true for the people?"

Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron O.F.M. Cap., of Agana, Guam seemed to agree but suggested alternative ideas.

"In the Pacific," he said, "the scarcity of priests and the aggressiveness of the evangelistic sects are challenging the very survival of the Catholic faith. In my experience, the only answer to this double predicament is to 'form communities based on faith,' as Pope Benedict told the youth in Cologne."

He also suggested that "the Church needs to make clearly visible the signs of the Eucharist: maybe the Church needs to restore the 'breadness' of the bread which becomes the Body of Christ to be eaten by all, and wine drunk by all which becomes the Blood of Christ. These signs fully and powerfully represent the reality that they signify and not just approximate them. ... I urge leaders of the Church today, to do everything possible to help people come to really know Jesus Christ through the signs of the Eucharist and the reality they signify."

Cardinal Adrianus Simonis from Utrecht, Netherlands, had prepared a text that ended being an unexpected answer to that question. The Dutch Prelate warned, in deed against the “ the external influences of a secularized and individualized world.”

“Shouldn’t  we keep reminding that this fundamental institution of our life, as a gift and a sacrifice?” said the Cardinal; he added : structural changes like for instance the ordination of married men doesn’t seem to be the solution.”

“ Isn’t celibate priesthood, or religious life, a witness of this fundamental institution? That means that we sould live more in the Eucharist to prepare the way to rediscover the value of the Eucharist.” He concluded.

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Head of Human Life International blasts, others still skeptical of would-be Justice Miers

Front Royal, Va., Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, head of the group Human Life International offered some of the harshest criticism yet today, in the confused firestorm around Harriet Miers, President Bush’s recent pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Fr. Euteneuer chided Bush, saying that his choice of close friend Miers sends a message of: "'If you are pro-life keep your mouths shut and hide in the closet if you ever hope to advance in your career.'“ 

"The nomination of Miers”, he said, “is a slap in the face to pro-life lawyers and judges who have not been ashamed of the principles that inform their conscience; evidently courage of conviction disqualifies candidates for the bench."

"We know very little about Miers, but her nomination revealed a lot about President Bush. It has become clear he is afraid to fight for the values on which he campaigned."

Fr. Euteneuer recalled that "Last year Bush asked faithful Catholics to fight for him, campaign for him and vote for him and they did in record numbers; now the President lacks the stomach to fight for the values of those who put him in office.”

He added that Bush “is asking us to trust him in a gamble with the lives of millions of unborn babies, with the health and well being of mothers, with the fate of our nation.”

Others, particularly many in the president’s own Republican party and numerous pro-lifers are skeptical of Miers, who has never been a judge and has little evidence to suggest how she would rule on key life issues.

President Bush and his aides however, have been actively trying to quell fears encouraging skeptics to give Miers a chance to prove herself before making their decision.

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Catholic leaders urge quick passage of vital health-care bill for Katrina survivors

Alexandria, Va., Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - The United States bishops, Catholic Charities USA, and the Catholic Health Association are urging senators to quickly pass crucial legislation that would provide temporary health care coverage for Hurricane Katrina survivors through the Medicaid program.

"In response to the disaster, the federal government can and should act to implement a health services strategy that ensures immediate access to health services for low-income and newly impoverished individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina," the three groups wrote in a joint letter to U.S. senators.

Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced the bipartisan Emergency Health Care Relief Act of 2005 last month. Despite bi-partisan support, full Senate action on the bill has been delayed several times.

The legislation would offer Medicaid coverage with streamlined eligibility and enrollment procedures to all those affected by Hurricane Katrina with incomes at 100 percent or less of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), as well as all pregnant women and children survivors up to 200 percent of the FPL. It would also provide 100 percent federal Medicaid matching for areas affected by Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama until December 2006, and provide for temporary 100 percent federal Medicaid payments to every state for all eligible Katrina survivors. Finally, it would create a fund for providers to help offset increases in uncompensated health care costs as a result of Katrina.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have already approved waivers for expedited eligibility determination for Katrina survivors in four states around the disaster area. However, without passage of the bill, childless adults will not be eligible and the most devastated states will have to bear the costs for care.

The three Catholic groups applauded the government’s quick response that made health services available to those in need. “However, we believe it is necessary to create seamless eligibility for the victims of Hurricane Katrina across state lines and to allow the government to ensure full federal funding of health care services for all Katrina victims, wherever they may be," said the letter.

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US bishops urge for passage of bill that ensure fair treatment of captured combatants

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - Combating terrorism remains a government priority, but respect for human dignity should not be undermined in the process, says the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee.

Yesterday, Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee urged support for legislative guidelines for interrogations of enemy prisoners as well as a prohibition on inhuman treatment.

“We believe that a respect for the dignity of every human person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice, and peace,” Bishop Ricard wrote in a letter to U.S. Senators. “There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason.”

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Ricard urged senators to support two amendments to the Defense Authorization Act, proposed by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Warner (R-VA).

The first amendment would prohibit cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control of the United States government. The second would provide uniform standards for the interrogation of individuals detained by the Defense Department.

“As events unfold in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places, we recognize that combating terrorism remains a top priority for Congress and the Administration. We also recognize, however, that the reported instances of prisoner abuse by members of the U.S. armed services could seriously undermine that effort and compromise human dignity,” the bishop wrote.

Passage of the bill, he said, would be consistent with the United States’ long history of leadership and strong support for human rights around the world. It would also ensure that the serious abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by U.S. military personnel would never recur, he said.

The U.S. cannot adopt an attitude of “desperate times call for desperate measures,” he added.

“The guidelines and mechanisms contained in these amendments reflect a conviction that our nation must treat our prisoners as we would expect our enemies to treat our own military personnel,” he continued. “Congress’ adoption of these amendments would represent a significant step in restoring the moral credibility of the United States at a crucial time.”

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Texas bishops urge Texans to vote against same-sex unions

Dallas, Texas, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Texas are urging all Texans to vote Nov. 8 in favor of an amendment to the state constitution that will prohibit the legalization of same-sex unions in Texas. Proposition 2 will amend the state’s constitution recognizing marriage only as a union between one man and one woman.

The bishops strongly urged all Catholics to hit the polling booths. “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue and a participation in the political process is a moral obligation. All believers are called to a faithful citizenship,” they said.

“There should be no separation between one’s faith and life in either public or private realms. … By our voice, we as Catholics should contribute to society’s welfare and test its public life by the standards of right reason and Gospel truth. This is particularly urgent in light of the need to protect the nature of marriage,” they concluded.

In their letter Sept. 29, the bishops outlined the Church’s teaching on marriage and its “irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children.

The lifelong union between one man and one woman in marriage “is unique among creation in so far as it is established by God. This fundamental truth ought to be recognized as such in law,” the bishops said.

“Marriage did not originate from either the Church or state, but from God. Therefore, we believe neither Church nor state has the right to alter the nature and structure of marriage,” the bishops said. “What God has joined together let no one put asunder.”

The bishops said their support for the amendment was not motivated by animosity or discrimination toward any group, saying that “the Church’s teaching about the human dignity of every human person, including homosexuals, is also clear and strong.”

“Homosexual persons are to be treated with respect and compassion. Our respect for them means we condemn all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse,” they wrote.

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Church to fund adult stem-cell research in South Korea

Seoul, South Korea, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Seoul announced Wednesday that it will donate 10 billion won (about US$9.6 million) to a committee that will support adult stem-cell research.

Most of the funds will come from the Church, with the remainder raised through donations, said Bishop Yeom Su-jeong, head of the committee. It also plans to award an annual grant of 300 million won to a scientist working in adult stem-cell research, reported The Associated Press.

The motivation is to raise awareness about the dignity of human life in the face of a strong lobby in favor of embryonic stem-cell research, which, according to Church teaching, violates human dignity by killing the embryo in the process.

Debates over stem-cell research have been heated in South Korea, where Korean native Hwang Woo-suk, has received international renown for first cloning human embryos in 2004 and extracting stem cells. However, he claims human cloning is not the aim of his research.

South Korea's government supports Hwang and his team, which created the first embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick patients earlier this year.

In March, Christian leaders filed a lawsuit claiming a law that allows the use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes is unconstitutional. South Korea bans cloning for reproductive reasons but allows it for medical research.

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'Saved By Priest and his catholic faith' says Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke

, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - Hollywood star Mickey Rourke insists his strong commitment to Roman Catholicism has saved him from slipping back into his formerly chaotic lifestyle. He made these comments to British gossip magazine Female First.

The DOMINO actor ensures he talks to his priest as often as possible, and the release of being able to offload his problems prevents him from having a mental "explosion".

He says, "I've talked to my priest a lot. I used to have to call him or the shrink when there was an explosion, because I was really good at not talking to anybody until there was an explosion.

"My priest is this cool Italian from New York. We go down to his basement and he opens the wine. .

"We smoke a cigarette and I have my confession. He sends me upstairs to do my Hail Mary's. I mean, I'm no Holy Joe, but I have a strong belief.".

Mickey Rourke has revealed that he came close to committing suicide during his eight year addiction battle in a comment to Now Magazine, a British Gossip paper. The 'Nine 1/2 Weeks' star, who suffered addictions to drugs and alcohol, said he was only saved from shooting himself in the head because of his faith in God. .He said: "If I wasn't Catholic I would have blown my brains out.

"I would pray to God. I would say 'Please can you send me just a little bit of daylight.'" .

Mickey Rourke tried to commit suicide - but was saved at the eleventh hour by a priest. The Hollywood star, who at one time ruined his career through self-destructive behavior, says he was close to shooting himself when he went to confession and asked for God's approval of his sinister plan.Fortunately, the priest counseled Mickey out of his depression and helped him come to terms with his life.

“He talked me out of it and we started meeting.His name is Father Pete and he lives in New York.

"Father Pete put me back on the right track," the actor concluded.

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Argentine archbishop warns of spread of abortion mentality

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, warned this week of an increasingly widespread abortion mentality in the country that “later translates into laws.”

In a message to young people gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lujan, the archbishop encouraged them “to look after the life of the elderly and the terminally ill, as there also the shadow of euthanasia is frequently becoming apparent in the halls of our legislatures.”

“The pilgrimage is one of oldest penitential actions which Christianity has unceasingly repeated, expressed here in Argentina through the great Marian fervor of recent weeks,” he continued. The theme of this year’s pilgrimage to Lujan, he noted, “Mother, teach us to care for life, is very appropriate for our times.”

Archbishop Aguer likewise exhorted young people “to care for the lives of children in their families, for the precarious life of those who live poor and marginalized, for the life of those who cannot receive an education.”

“Let us ask the Most Holy Virgin to teach us and help us to care for life and to proclaim this life that has its origin and its end in God,” he said in conclusion.

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Mexican bishop calls for building up of common good

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - During the inauguration of the National Conference of Social Ministry in Mexico, Archbishop Sergio Obeso of Xalapa called on Mexicans to unite in building a different Mexico in which inequality does not exist.

Noting that the bishops of the country also want to contribute to such an effort, Archbishop Obeso explained that the purpose of the Conference on Social Ministry is to develop a plan of action that will allow for the transformation of those situations and structures that lead almost 50 million Mexicans to experience “suffering, and in many cases, death.”

While he acknowledged that the Mexico is in a difficult period, he pointed out that the Church considers democratic development to be very important.  The Church has something to say, he noted, “from the perspective of the faith, about the serious inequalities and social and political deterioration in the country.”

“We desire to do our part to help build a different Mexico, where everyone is welcome, where there is an economy of service for all people, a policy centered on service and on the search for the common good, and not on the interests of certain individuals or groups; a society linked to respect and the promotion of human rights,” the archbishop said.

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Brazilian women unite against government’s anti-life policies

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - In preparations to mark the “Defense of Life Week” in Brazil, the National Association of Pro-life Women (NAPW) has issued a “Manifesto in Defense of Life,” which outlines the group’s concern and regret over the anti-life policies of the country’s government.

The NAPW expressed outrage at not being invited to participate in a government commission that drafted a law, recently brought before Congress, on the legalization of abortion.  The group also reiterated its rejection of abortion in all circumstances, including those cases currently allowed by Brazilian law, such as in cases of anencephaly.

The group also denounced the subsidizing of abortion by Brazil’s Ministry of Health, “which has neither the right nor the duty to kill children, but rather to protect life and health.”

Further on the group states they do not feel represented by the Secretary for Women’s Policies, Nilceia Freire, “whose incessant determination to legalize abortion is diametrically opposed to the sublime mission of women to transmit and conserve life.”

“We do not accept the argument that it is necessary to legalize abortion in order for it be done ‘safely,’ just as we do not accept the legalization of stealing, or of kidnapping or of rape, with the excuse that such crimes need to be carried out ‘safely’,” the statement noted.  The group also said it was not impressed by the inflated numbers of women supposedly dying from illegal abortions.

The NAPW called on Brazilian women to refuse to vote for candidates who claim to speak for women’s issues but who act against human life.

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Panama’s congress considers legalization of homosexuality

Panama City, Panama, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Legislative Assembly in Panama has agreed to consider a proposal that would not only penalize discrimination on the basis of homosexuality, but would also establish a series of concepts that would allow individuals to legally define themselves as homosexuals.

The measure would define gender as the perception one has of oneself, “whether that be that of a man, a woman or of some other non-conventional way that may or may not coincide with one’s biological sex.”  Sexual orientation would be described as “the gender to which one feels primarily attracted.” 

“Discrimination on the basis of orientation or gender identity” would be prohibited, and those who “discriminate, commit stigmatizing acts against, physically or verbally abuse, publicly dishonor directly or indirectly a person or group of persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity” would be penalized.  The law would also punish the transmission through the media of ideas or images that “promote such discrimination.” 

If approved the law would also order the Ministry of Education to eliminate “all content from school programs and text books that include sexual discrimination in any form and to reinforce sexual education with clear and objective information on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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UK Bishops publish useful guide on Scripture

London, England, Oct 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops of England and Wales, together with the Bishops of Scotland, have recently issued a teaching document The Gift of Scripture. The document is to help people ‘hear, understand and live God’s word’.

The Gift of Scripture explains the teaching of Dei Verbum as well as that of subsequent documents on the Bible issued in recent years by the Pontifical Biblical Commission under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. There are quotations too from the teaching of Pope John Paul II.

In its section ‘Living the Word of God’ The Gift of Scripture underlines the way in which from the earliest days the proclamation of the Scriptures have been an integral part of the liturgy.

The Liturgy Office of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has produced a number of resources to assist parishes, deaneries and others with their reading of The Gift of Scripture and reflection on the ministering of God’s word in the Liturgy.

Bishop Daniel Mullins, who guided the production of the document, and Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow invited the four hundred delegates gathered from across the world to use the document in their own work of biblical formation.

The Gift of Scripture provides an explanation of Catholic teaching on the Bible. The 60-page booklet explains the basic principles and gives guidance on some difficult questions which arise. The bishops encourage a deeper appreciation of Scripture through catechesis, liturgy and prayer. They warmly acknowledge the contribution of Jewish and other Christian scholars to the work of biblical understanding.

The document is divided into five sections: Reflections on Preaching the Word; Celebrating the Word; Preparing a liturgy of the word; Praying the Word; Sharing and Proclaiming the Word, which are guidelines for Ministering the Word at Sunday Mass.

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