Vatican Proposals for Caring for Those on the Street

«Jesus Himself Came Up and Walked by Their Side»

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2009 ( Here is the final document of the 1st Integrated European Meeting for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street. The meeting was held at the Vatican last month.

In the final document, dated Oct. 24 and released today, the pontifical council offers 57 conclusions and 51 recommendations for those who work on the roads and railways, prostitutes, children of the street, and the homeless.

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The First Integrated European Meeting for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street took place between 29th September and 2nd October 2009, in the Vatican. The theme of the encounter was: “Jesus himself came up and walked by their side (Luke 24:15). The Pastoral Care of the Road: A walk together” and was structured over four main days, each dedicated to a particular area of pastoral concern undertaken by the Pontifical Council for the road/street, areas reflected in the publication of the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street” (GPCR/S).[1]

National directors, Representatives of Bishops’ Conferences together with various experts were present from fifteen European Countries coming from Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, France, Germany, Great Britain (England and Wales, Scotland), Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Spain, the Netherlands and the Ukraine. A representative of the Sovereign Order of Malta was also present along with delegates from various associations and movements among which were the Italian Association of Motorway and Tunnel Agencies, the Association ‘Père Guy Gilbert-Bergerie Faucon’, ‘Aux Captifs, la Libération’ (France), Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Spain, The Community of John XXIII, The New Horizons Community (Italy), The Community of Saint Egidio, FEANTSA, FEVR, Foundation GEDAMA onlus, SERMIG-Arsenal of Peace (Italy), SEMS-Europe, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, The ‘Medaille’ Trust (Southampton, UK), the SRTV (The Netherlands), Solwodi (Germany) and The Passage Day Centre (London, UK). Religious orders were present with representatives from the International Union of Superior Generals, the Union of Superior Generals (women), the Union of Major Superiors of Italy (women), the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, The Service of Charity (The Work ‘Don Guanella’), the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesians), Conventual Franciscans, the Little Work of Divine Providence, the Little Sisters of Jesus and the Missionaries of Charity.

The First Day under the title “Christ is the Way, He is the road” (GPCR/S:18) fell into two halves. After the singing of the ‘Veni Creator’, the Welcoming Address was delivered by Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. In this he reflected upon the journey of the two disciples to Emmaus and the call to walk like them the path from despair to hope and from sadness to joy. He also drew on some of the challenges that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have set before the continent of Europe. Next followed the ‘Presentation of the Meeting’ given by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary of the Pontifical Council. Here he reflected on the four different categories set forth in the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street” and their particular relationship within a European context. There followed next a series of personal presentations by the participants illustrating their various pastoral commitments. At midday Holy Mass was celebrated in the Basilica of S. Maria in Trastevere presided over by the President of the Pontifical Council. The afternoon session under the title “The Pastoral care of users of the road and railways” began with the Conference “Charity and service to users of the road and railway” given by the Rev. Mgr. Wolfgang Miehle, National Director for the Pastoral Care of Migrants of the German Bishops Conference. This was followed by the Round Table “‘The Word of God illumines the road’ (GPCR/S:10): Evangelisation and Education in the environment of the road and railway”. Interventions were made by the Rev. Br. Juan Rivera Moreno (Director of the Dept. for the Pastoral Care of the Road, Spain), the Rev. Fr. Marian Midura (National Chaplain of Drivers, Poland) and in the justified absence of Mr. Fabrizio Palenzona (President of AISCAT, Italy), his intervention was read.

The Second Day was dedicated to the theme “‘We cannot remain indifferent…’ (GPCR/S:86). The Pastoral ministry for the liberation of Women of the Street”. This opened with the Conference “Prostitution and the trafficking of human beings: new forms of slavery” given by Ms. Ivonne Van De Kar, Coordinator SRTV, The Netherlands. This was followed by the Round Table “‘The encounter with Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan and Saviour’ (GPCR/S:113): A pastoral care of redemption and liberation of women of the street.” Interventions were made by the Rev. Sr. Klára Marie Strànikovà, SCSC (Formator, Czech Republic), the Rev. Sr. Margaret Herritty (Trustee of the Medaille Trust, Southampton, England) and the Rev. Sr. Lea Ackermann, (Chairman of ‘Solwodi’, Germany). In the afternoon there was the Conference “A commitment for the reintegration of women of the street into society” given by the Rev. Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, ISMC, Official Responsible against ‘Trafficking of Women and Minors’ of the National USMI-Rome.

The Third Day took as its theme “‘From the pastoral care of waiting to the pastoral care of meeting’ (GPCR-S:133). The pastoral care of street children” and began with the Conference, “The pastoral care of street children in Europe” given by the Rev. Fr. Meinolf von Spee, SDB, Director of Don Bosco International, aisbl. Then followed the Round Table “ ‘Changing track…’ (GPCR/S :137): The challenge and dynamic for the possible reintegration of street children into the family unit” with interventions given by the Rev. Fr. Csaba Bojte, OFM (Franciscans, Romania), the Rev. Mgr. Cesare Lodeserto (Vicar for the Pastoral Care of Social Work and the President of the Foundation, ‘Regina Pacis’, Moldova) and Dr. Chiara Amirante (President of the New Horizons Community). In the afternoon was given the Conference “A pastoral care of welcome in favour of street children, first victims of the disintegration of the family, and promotion of their rights” by the Rev. Fr. Guy Gilbert, Founder of the Association ‘Père Guy Gilbert-Bergerie Faucon’, France.
<br>The Fourth Day had as its theme “‘Also the poor evangelise us’ (GPCR-S:163). The pastoral care of the homeless”. This began with a Conference on “The pastoral care of the homeless in Europe” given by Mr. Jean-Guilhem Xerri, President of ‘Aux Captifs, la Libération’, France. There then followed the Round Table “ ‘A better future’ (GPCR/S:147): Good practice and collaboration in the pastoral care of the homeless” with interventions by Ms. Lucia Lucchini (Responsible for the Service of General Itinerants of the Community Sant’ Egidio), Ms. Liz Gosme (Policy Officer of FEANTSA, Belgium) and Mr. Mick Clark (Chief Executive of ‘The Passage’, London, UK). Later in the morning another Conference under the title “Types of solidarity and apostolic engagement with the homeless in Europe” was given by Mr. Raffaele Gnocchi, Responsible for the Sector for Marginalized Adults and the Homeless (Caritas, Milan).

Throughout the four days opportunity was given to the participants for dialogue with the speakers and for reflection together in working groups divided between the different languages of the Meeting. Accordingly the final afternoon was given over to reports from these working groups and finally under the title “At the end of this wandering along the various pathways of the pastoral care of the road…” (GPCR/S :165) there was the debate and approval of final proposals
together with thanks and concluding observations.

The positive atmosphere of the encounter together was able to affirm this particular apostolate, and the sharing of experience, practice and aspirations, together with methodologies and objectives, are summarized in the following Conclusions and Recommendations.


1. The pastoral care of the road is a prophetic witness in that it is often unstructured and does not necessarily require specific services or institutions to bring the message of salvation. In many ways the gospel expresses all its power when it returns to the streets, from where it was originally born.

2. The encounter with Christ is always a personal one. To meet Christ in those who live and work on the roads is a moment for individual conversion bringing with it an opportunity for personal witness.

3. For those who suffer, especially on the streets, a journey of faith is possible and desirable. However, our own fears are often the first obstacles to evangelization.

4. In contemporary culture, the understanding of what constitutes a ‘person’ has almost disappeared from the comprehension of relationships. In every pastoral situation and encounter it is important to rediscover the value of the person, upholding his or her essential dignity.

The Pastoral Care of Road and Railway Users

5. In our present-day society the volume of traffic on both roads and rail is steadily on the increase. The need for mobility is greater than ever before. Accompanying this growth has been an increase in the situations of stress undergone by both drivers and passengers alike. This also in general involves an escalation in traffic incidents with material damage and personal injuries, often with fatal results.

6. There is a clear dichotomy in road traffic and railway safety and mortality rates between Eastern and Western Europe. There is also a difference between the demands and burdens put upon lorry and bus drivers, engine operators and service staff.

7. The dramatic increase in the volume of traffic has resulted in tougher competition generating an ongoing situation of pressure for logistics companies betwixt pricing, time and costs. This has created a huge growth in the mental and physical strain experienced by drivers. Due to the restructuring and outsourcing measures taken by companies, many drivers are in fear of loosing their jobs or suffering massive financial losses.

8. Irregular working hours, long absences from home together with restricted or failed social contacts and friendships represent an enormous strain upon many drivers. It is quite frequent for them to attempt to cope with these frustrating situations with excess coffee, energy drinks or by taking pills. Some even become addicted to alcohol or narcotic drugs.

9. In order to meet the needs presented by the pastoral care of the road and railway, the Church needs to develop also specific pastoral responses outside the ordinary parochial structures.

10. In Europe, the initiatives in the pastoral care of the road and the railway are many and varied, underscoring the existence of a pastoral solicitude already being undertaken. Often what is achieved is not well known and communicated as many people are not aware of a specific pastoral care in this field.

11. The Church clearly recognizes the importance of the pastoral care for those who work on the road and railways and encourages an ethic of mutual respect that gives value to human life.

12. Solidarity among the people who work in the street is often limited to an immediate response. There is thus little mutual service.

13. The road safety education is often left to the purposes of civic education which very often fails to deal with the moral and spiritual aspects associated with driving.

14. For many work on the roads, especially lorry drivers, there is a constant battle against the danger of loneliness and isolation. Moreover, those who work on the roads at night are often in most need.

The liberation of women of the street

15. Many women migrate as irregular migrants and subsequently end up in a trafficked situation. Many even die on the journey. The root causes for this migration is frequently aggravated by poverty combined with a lack of information and education and the need to rely on an income earned abroad.

16. A clear distinction needs to be made between trafficking and smuggling. Even when the situation or context in the destination country seems to be the same e.g. prostitution, the issues of control and force involved in human trafficking may make the scenario entirely different.

17. Women are trafficked for a variety of reasons other than sexual exploitation, such as for forced labour or compulsory domestic service.

18. Different legislative approaches to prostitution are reflected in the way the ‘sex industry’ is able to develop and operate in a particular country and have a huge impact on the number of women trafficked into prostitution.

19. It should be remembered that in addition to women, men and children are also trafficked.

20. Women involved in street based prostitution and those who have been trafficked for sexual purposes have different life experiences which need to be considered.

21. Women on the street are often persons with multiple problems (drugs, homelessness, psychological problems, HIV) and require a variety of integrated pastoral responses.

22. In prostitution there is often a ‘hierarchy’ in which ‘street prostitution’, in particular, is at the lowest level.

23. There are other new phenomena to be found on the street directly related to trafficking such as begging and internal trafficking. Women are also increasingly found working as traffickers for forced prostitution.
<br>24. The problem of prostitution should not be detached from the issue of poverty at large as often the two are linked.

25. At this present time it is not always easy for the Church to speak about prostitution and the ‘sex industry’ as these topics present many facets.

26. There is an over investment on the issues concerning the forms of intervention rather than prevention. In the case of trafficked women, pre-departure counselling and information about safe migration to potential victims of human trafficking is very important.

27. A predominant masculine culture exasperates the problem of prostitution and human trafficking.

28. Networking is key to the effective pastoral responses both within the Catholic Church and other actors such as NGO’s and government services.

29. The Church acknowledges the huge contribution to the pastoral care of women on the street that is already being made by Catholic organizations and in particular congregations of female religious. Recognition is also made of the choice of many to live in areas which are the most deprived.

The pastoral care of street children

30. There is a clear distinction between children on the streets and those of the streets.

31. New forms of street children are emerging due to the breakdown of family life and increased mobility.

32. Responsibility for children on the street can often lie with their own families but many children are forced into begging and remain unsupervised and uneducated.

33. Outreach in order to meet the children ‘where they are’ is the first step that leads to welcome and accompaniment in order to prepare children physically, mentally and spiritually for a new life in society.

34. Reintegration into the family for street children involves well trained and prepared counselling along with listening and dialogue.

35. The Church is uniquely placed to advocate for a changed vision of street children against stereotypes within her own communities and society at large. Helping people to see beyond the criminal element that often characterizes these children to future possibilities is essential. Education and support can take place in
the very society that has excluded many of these children.

36. The Church is continually raising her ‘voice’ in favour of street children and in particular against the injustices that accompany their situations even to the point of open denunciation.

37. Routines and ordinary patterns of life involving sleep, work and recreation are essential to bring stability and balance to children on the path of renewal and integration.

38. The common path in the protection of the young must be made by understanding the different cultures and religious affiliations of the children and the localities in which they reside.

39. The diversity of legislative frameworks in each country has a huge impact on what is possible to achieve in favour of street children. However underpinning all involvement is a non-judgemental, loving engagement that involves patience to enable the development of trusting relationships.

40. The charisms of the founding fathers and mothers of many religious communities and congregations are being continuously re-discovered in light of the urgent needs also of the youth and illuminate the path towards a future of hope and confidence especially for the young.

41. Church and education systems are responsible for the future of new generations. Whilst respecting their differences, they have taken measures and actions to combat the phenomenon of street children.

42. Differences in culture and belief are always at the service of man and never in contrast to a true integration of hearts, bodies and minds.

43. The Church in her work building freedom collaborates with the State in order to be close to the poor without hindrance or delay.

44. The good of the human person is the core of all choices and timing of pastoral action.
The pastoral care of the homeless

45. The pastoral care for homeless people is a reality which concerns individuals in extreme poverty, but also institutions and individuals not directly involve.

46. Although the Church cannot always intervene appropriately in all situations of poverty and homelessness she must however call attention to the problem with the purpose of creating partnerships and coordinating available resources.

47. In the face of visible forms of poverty there are many more hidden causes of marginalization and social exclusion.

48. It is important to remember that poverty is characterized by lack of economic means and materials, but also by the absence of stable relationships.

49. The language of the Church and State are not the same. Whilst the Church promotes ‘love of neighbour’ the latter uses the language of security and sometimes of social protection.

50. The dignity of each human person is paramount when dealing with those on the streets. This demands that each person is respected for who and what they are.

51. The quality of the relationship with a homeless person is important. It is preferable not just to provide mere welfare, but to take care of the whole person.

52. Responses to the homeless must be immediate and well prepared.

53. It is important to enable homeless persons to break the cycle of living on the streets. Where possible it is essential to support them with the comprehensive range of services that reflect their needs.

54. It is important to work with the homeless at the place and at a speed of their making, whilst responding immediately to the possibilities of intervention.

55. The specific pastoral care required is characterized by accompaniment which can take a considerable period of time. Long term commitments are necessary in this regard even when results may be lacking

56. The homeless are not to be seen merely a problem but also one of the ways that Christ makes his presence manifest to us.

57. The reasons that people find themselves living on the roads are many and varied. A compassionate listening pastoral approach that is able to incorporate their stories without immediate moral judgment lies at the heart.


1. The power of the gospel is explosive and unstoppable. To those on the road it is always important to make gestures that are recognizable and to understand that we too can receive the gospel through them.

2. The pastoral care of the road (and railways) is enriched by      the sharing of experience and practice from different perspectives and pastoral situations. This must help understand both the strengths and the limitations of our interventions, which has to be taken into consideration.

The Pastoral Care of Road and Railway Users

3. There is a need for the Church in Europe to grow in a greater awareness of and to develop a specific pastoral care of both the road and railway in favour of drivers, operators and victims of accidents.

4. A pastoral care that involves the education especially of the young about the responsibility of driving and road security needs to be developed. In this both the family and the school are important. Moreover for this to be properly effective there must also be respect given to both cultural and religious approaches.

5. The establishment at the level of the Episcopal Conference of an office or a person of reference dedicated to the pastoral care of the road and railway is recommended.

6. The pastoral care of the road and railway needs to be improved also through the dissemination of information.

7. There is a need of serious preparation for emergency pastoral care (accidents, terrorism and major disasters). 24 hour help lines need to be set up together with the development of well trained chaplains and volunteers.

8. A fostering of collaboration between different aspects of pastoral work that involve the family, the young and health must be established

9. It is important to find new opportunities to communicate effectively with those to whom the ministry of the road and railway is aimed. This should involve collaboration between local churches, local governments, trade associations, schools, etc., in which education and catechesis on road security should be promoted.

10. There is a need to encourage opportunities for reconciliation after bereavement and serious events. This may involve meetings between families and victims though this should always take into account both the timing and also the personal maturity of those concerned.

11. The Church in her solicitude towards those on the roads and the railways must always be one of listening, helping and of accompaniment. It is also an ideal opportunity for practical dialogue which is both even inter-cultural and inter-religious.

12. It is important for the Church to advocate on behalf of employees in the road and railway haulage industry especially when unjust practices and conditions are discovered. Together with drivers and through cooperation with social groups, the local Church could promote meetings between them and trade unions, logistics companies, management, the police (and other emergency organizations) and supervisory authorities in order to exchange experiences and to plan for the future.

13. Whenever possible and appropriate, pastors should be encouraged to add to their parochial outreach a specific care that involves those on the move whether they be on road or rail.

14. The Church needs to find new and imaginative places in which she can meet with drivers, places of encounter and prayer where people on the move may receive spiritual nourishment. Among these are recommended, especially along motorways, chapels – mobile or fixed – together with the promotion of wayside shrines. The development of Christian radio stations is also to be encouraged.

15. The ‘Ten Commandments of the Road’, published by the Pontifical Council in the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street” (n. 61) should be promoted and encouraged in a unified form.

16. Pastoral activity undertaken in the street should give a strong message and witness to al
l concerned, in ecclesial, civil and business spheres.

17. The pastoral care of the families of those who are absent on the roads and railways for long periods should not be forgotten. The familial relationships of drivers are subject to particular strains thus making it necessary to find ways in which to enable to offer support particularly those which enable them to spend time together. Introductory events such as ‘oasis’ days or barbecues could be organized, followed by weekends for lorry drivers and their families, or regular tables on Sundays. The leisure time spent together is also an ideal opportunity to reflect upon one’s own family circumstances and to exchange views with other families in similar situations. A family church service could mark the highlight and the end of the weekend.
The liberation of women of the street

18. Interventions must always be personal making constant reference to the individual who has a unique face, story, thus representing the singularity of every man and woman of the street.  The building of a trustful relationship is essential.

19. Pastoral action requires the participation of all, those who are directly or indirectly involved as the issue is one which is social, cultural and religious.

20. The role of the Church in this field must be threefold: relational, sacramental and spiritual. Women of the street should be welcomed and accepted by the local Church in their way of liberation. There should be a possibility to meet between members of the parish and these women. Whilst upholding the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, whenever possible local parishes should include women on the street as part of their mission of redemption.

21. In the challenge to enable women to exit prostitution both external and internal synergies are required. Pastoral agents and all involved in the care of women of the street should receive, when possible, professional training in this matter. The formation of both clergy and religious should pay careful attention to this specific pastoral care.

22. Attention also needs to be paid to the formation of pastoral agents, especially from the clergy and male religious communities, to work with the ‘demand side’ of prostitution.

23. In addition, the Church has to work with several actors to educate people so as to give a human face to women on the street: male congregations; parish priests; the police; schools; peacekeeping missions; mass media, governments, etc.

24. A lifestyle should be promoted that respects sexuality as a constituent and noble part of human beings and not something to be merchandized and alienated.

25. Educating for human life should promote a renewed culture of rights and duties in the reciprocity between men and women and children. Collaboration between educational institutions should be encouraged by the early grades of school until university.

26. There must be particular attention to the trans-national dimensions of human trafficking. It is also important to work with the countries of origin of women. Those from different cultures must dialogue with mutual respect in order to uphold the dignity of each person.

27. Solutions should not be imposed rather it is important to accompany people in their journey of healing. Family like structures, which provide home, love and care for women, seem to be a successful way of helping them to find new perspectives in their life. Those involved in helping women on the street are also called to change something in themselves.

28. Family members of those who ‘work’ in prostitution, especially those who were trafficked, must also be considered. These require sensitive and delicate pastoral care.

29. Attention should be paid to the different pastoral responses to be given to the needs of local women as opposed to trafficked women who are trapped in street prostitution and other aspects of ‘pavement culture’ (drugs, alcohol, violence, homelessness, mental ill-health).<br>
30. All pastoral responses to the care of women of the streets must be underpinned by an attitude which is ‘non-judgmental’ and respectful.

31. Networking is key to work with women of the streets at local, regional, national, and international levels. Resources need to be invested to identify partners with the same interest and to build relationships. The opportunity to work in cooperation and not in competition is a style which should characterize the actions of a pastoral response.

The pastoral care of the children of the street

32. There should be greater advocacy on the part of the Church to be a voice for children of the street in Europe as well as asking for the improvement of the relative governmental policies. In this the Church should make more use of gathering information and creating networks to enable dialogue at continental, national and local levels.

33. The pastoral care of street children should be integrated into the ordinary pastoral care whenever appropriate. It is in this way that intimate contact with families and schools can also be made.

34. It is necessary for an increased collaboration between Church and State and the relevant NGO’s whilst not forgetting their own areas of specialization and competence.

35. Local ecclesial communities need to be aware of the extent and development of broken families in their midst in order to help take care of children through both structured and unstructured activities which can bring about a better future for all concerned.

36. It is important that children should always be reintegrated into the family, or alternative family structures when appropriate. Role models and parental figures that can build up trust and security are essential for healthy growth into maturity as an adult.

37. The Church must also promote a vision of fruitful fatherhood and motherhood able to accommodate the children of the street as their own children.

38. Institutions that work with children need to understand their proper role to accompany the young in the field of instruction, formation and education, especially one that helps the integration and participation of the street children into society.

39. Reconciliation is essential to reintegration which may involve revisiting past histories, especially within the family. Greater knowledge is needed in the understanding of psychology of the young.

40. The role of prevention needs to be highlighted through an awareness of the problems that put a child onto the street. An awareness concerning the rights of children must be developed so that they can be respected by the law and the people.

41. The Church should promote wherever possible activities for the young such as sport, music and other social actions which should be also professionally planned and undertaken.

42. Programmes for the formation of pastoral agents in this field must be clearly shaped.

The pastoral care of the homeless

43. The Church must also be able to accompany those who live on the streets, daring to propose hope even to the homeless with a welcoming hospitality.

44. Reintegration and restitution must always involve self-empowerment. Personal responsibility, participation and a restoration of self worth are essential to re-entry into society.

Therefore pastoral agents need a formation which is technical, psychological and spiritual.

45. Each local church should be willing to offer space, even temporary, to those directly involved in this pastoral action to promote hospitality and accompaniment.

46. Homeless people are valued by listening and consideration of their needs: a pastoral Journey.

47. The Church must consider it her task to monitor and evaluate the development of devices for legislation to combat poverty and homelessness.

48. Organizations that care for the homeless must have careful governance and structure. It is essential to hold to the mission, vision and values as central to all the services provided. It is
always important to work with human and gospel values.

49. The Church has a major role in challenging the stereotypes that society makes of the homeless. It should also enable a coordinated Christian voice to be reflected back to legislators in order to challenge policy making and implementation. The Church must continue to be the ‘voice’ of the voiceless in policy making within governmental structures.

50. It is important to emphasize that homeless people belong to any given parish in which they are present. They have right to the ordinary pastoral care offered and to participation in whatever way possible in any territory. The right to a Christian burial, if they are Catholic faithful, and to subsequently be remembered in prayer should not be forgotten.

51. In order to advocate on behalf of the homeless the Church must create collaborative networks in order to raise awareness of the issues concerned with homeless.

Rome, 24th October 2009

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[1] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PASTORAL CARE OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLE, Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street (from now on referred to as GPCR/S): People On the Move – Supplement 104 (2007).

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