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Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 13, 2015

Pope’s Morning Homily: It’s Idolatry to Be Attached to the Here and Now

At Casa Santa Marta, Warns Against 2 Traps Related to Forgetting That This Life Is Passing

Pope Francis today warned against a certain “idolatry” that inordinately focuses on the beauties of this life, forgetting that earthly things are passing away and that, anyway, their Creator is so much more beautiful.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope today in Casa Santa Marta considered the transitory nature of our earthly life and the glory of God, reflected in the psalm, “The heavens proclaim the Glory of God.” 

People are too often incapable of looking beyond the beauty of earthly things towards the transcendent, he said, describing this attitude as the idolatry of immanence.

“They are attached to this idolatry: they are astonished by the power and energy (of these things). They haven’t thought about how much greater is their Sovereign because He created them, He who is the origin and the author of this beauty.”

“It’s an idolatry to gaze at all these beautiful things without believing that they will fade away,” he said. 

“And,” he remarked, “the fading too has its beauty…”

Pope Francis said we all run the risk of “this idolatry of being attached to the beauty of the here and now, without (a sense of) the transcendence.”

“It’s the idolatry of immanence,” he said. “We believe that these things are almost gods and they will last forever. We forget about that fading away.”

The other trap or idolatry into which many people fall, warned the Pope, is that of our daily habits which make our hearts deaf. He said Jesus illustrated this when he described the men and women during the time of Noah or Sodom who ate and drank and got married without caring about anything else until the flood came or the Lord rained down burning sulphur. 

“Everything is according to habit. Life is like that: We live in this way, without thinking about the end of this way of living. This too is an idolatry: to be attached to our habits, without thinking that this will come to an end. But the Church makes us look at the end of these things. Even our habits can be thought of as gods. The idolatry? Life is like this and we go forward in this way… And just as this beauty will finish in another (kind of) beauty, our habits will finish in an eternity, in another (kind of) habit. But there is God!”

Pope Francis went on to urge his listeners to direct their gaze toward the one God who is beyond “the end of created things” so as not to repeat the fatal error of looking back, as Lot’s wife did. We must be certain, he stressed, that if life is beautiful then its end will be just as beautiful as well. 

“We believers are not people who look back, who yield, but people who always go forward.”  

“We must always go forward in this life,” the Holy Father said, “looking at the beautiful things and with the habits that we all have but without deifying them. They will end. Be they these small beauties, which reflect a bigger beauty, our own habits for surviving in the eternal song, contemplating the glory of God.”

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

Lectionary: 495

Reading 1

WIS 13:1-9

All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God,

and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is,

and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;

But either fire, or wind, or the swift air,

or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,

or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.

Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,

let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;

for the original source of beauty fashioned them.

Or if they were struck by their might and energy,

let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.

For from the greatness and the beauty of created things

their original author, by analogy, is seen.

But yet, for these the blame is less;

For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,

though they seek God and wish to find him.

For they search busily among his works,

but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.

But again, not even these are pardonable.

For if they so far succeeded in knowledge

that they could speculate about the world,

how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

Responsorial Psalm

PS 19:2-3, 4-5AB

R. (2a) The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day pours out the word to day,

and night to night imparts knowledge.

R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

Not a word nor a discourse

whose voice is not heard;

Through all the earth their voice resounds,

and to the ends of the world, their message.

R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

Alleluia

LK 21:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Stand erect and raise your heads

because your redemption is at hand.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel

LK 17:26-37

Jesus said to his disciples:

“As it was in the days of Noah,

so it will be in the days of the Son of Man;

they were eating and drinking,

marrying and giving in marriage up to the day

that Noah entered the ark,

and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot:

they were eating, drinking, buying,

selling, planting, building;

on the day when Lot left Sodom,

fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.

So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day, someone who is on the housetop

and whose belongings are in the house

must not go down to get them,

and likewise one in the field

must not return to what was left behind.

Remember the wife of Lot.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,

but whoever loses it will save it.

I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed;

one will be taken, the other left.

And there will be two women grinding meal together;

one will be taken, the other left.” 

They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”

He said to them, “Where the body is,

there also the vultures will gather.”

Pope’s Address to Romano Guardini Foundation

“May your work with Guardini’s writings bring you to understand increasingly the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society”

Today Pope Francis received in audience the participants in a Conference organized by the “Romano Guardini Foundation” of Berlin, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the philosopher’s birth.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to be able to greet you, members of the Romano Guardini Foundation, who have come to Rome to take part in the Congress organized by the Gregorian University, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of Guardini’s birth. I thank Professor von Pufendorf for his kind words of greeting, and for having announced the imminent publication of an unpublished text. I am convinced that Guardini is a thinker who has much to say to the men of our time, and not only to Christians. You are carrying out this project with your foundation, making Guardini’s thought enter in a polyphonic dialogue today with the realms of politics, culture and science. I earnestly hope that this endeavor will be successful.

In his book “The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” Guardini takes up, among other things, an episode of the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” (“The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” Morcelliana, Brescia, pp. 24ff). It is the passage where the people go to staretz Zosima to present to him their concerns and difficulties, asking for his prayer and blessing. An emaciated peasant woman also approaches him to make her Confession. In a soft whisper she says she killed her husband who in the past had mistreated her very much. The staretz sees that the woman, in a desperate awareness of her guilt, is completely shut in on herself, and that any reflection, consolation or advice would run up against a wall. The woman is convinced she is condemned, but the priest shows her a way out: her existence has meaning, because God receives her at the moment of her repentance. Fear nothing, never fear, and do not be anguished — says the staretz — so that your repentance is not weakened, and then God will forgive everything. Moreover, there is not, and there cannot be in the whole earth a sin that God does not forgive if one repents sincerely. Nor can man commit such a great sin that it exhausts God’s infinite love (Ibid., p. 25). The woman was transformed in her Confession and received hope again.

In fact, the simplest persons understand what this is about. They are taken by the grandeur that shines in the wisdom and strength of the staretz’s love. They understand what holiness means, namely a life lived in faith, capable of seeing that God is close to men, that He has their life in His hands. In this connection, Guardini says: “Accepting with simplicity the existence of God’s hand, the personal will is transformed into the divine will and thus, without the creature ceasing to be only a creature and God truly God, their living unity is realized” (Ibid., p. 32). This is Guardini’s profound vision. It might have its foundation in his first metaphysical book “Der Gegensatz.” 

For Guardini this “living unity” with God consists of persons’ concrete relation with the world and with those around them. The individual feels interwoven in a people, namely, in an “original union of men that by species, country and historical evolution in life and in their destinies are a unique whole” (“The Meaning of the Church,” Morcelliana, Brescia, 2007, p. 21-22). Guardini understands the concept of “people” by distinguishing it clearly from an Enlightenment rationalism that considers real only that which can be received by reason (cf. “The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” p. 321) and that tends to isolate man, tearing him away from vital natural relations. Instead, the people means: the compendium of what is genuine, profound, essential in man (Ibid., p. 12). We can recognize in the people, as in a mirror, the “field of strength of the divine action.” The people — Guardini continues — “feel this operating everywhere and intuits the mystery, the restless presence” (Ibid., p. 15). Therefore, I like to say — I am convinced of it — that “people” is not a logical category, but a mystical category, for the reason that Guardini says.

Perhaps we can apply Guardini’s reflections to our time, seeking to discover God’s hand in present-day events. Then, perhaps, we will be able to recognize that God in His wisdom, has sent to us, in rich Europe, the hungry so that we will give him to eat, the thirsty so that we will give him to drink, the stranger so that we will receive him and the naked, so that we clothe him. History will then demonstrate: if we are a people, we will certainly receive him as our brother; if we are only a group of more or less organized individuals, we will be tempted to save our skin first of all, but we will not have continuity.

I thank you all once again for your presence. May your work with Guardini’s writings bring you to understand increasingly the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society. I bless you from my heart and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

FEATURE: The Truth About Babies and Pain

Italian Neonatologist Is Advocate for Looking After the Vulnerable

The needs of babies have too often been overlooked, with little attention being paid to their special needs, said Dr. Carlo Bellieni, a neonatologist based in Sienna, Italy.

In an interview with ZENIT Bellieni explained that babies suffer more than older patients and that the same stimulus can be irrelevant in an adult but terrible with long-term consequences in a baby. He also pointed out that if we learn to treat a baby with respect it will be easier to do the same with all patients.

Bellieni recently published a research paper that reviewed scientific trials in which babies were subjected to everyday painful events for which an analgesic treatment exists.

The problem with these trials, he found, was that in some cases pain treatment is given to a group of babies while another group of babies serves as a control group, receiving only a placebo.

Such practices are not acceptable, Bellieni affirmed, because while the pain procedures used in these studies are apparently minor, for example, heel stabs, they are not so minor for infants. “And the question we raise is why pain treatment is still scarcely used in these clinical trials, despite the great advances in analgesic treatment for babies,” he added.

Bellieni questioned if parents are really able to give authorization for treatments to be carried out on babies when the best interest of the child is not the aim. “An adult can agree to undergo risks or pain in the name of the scientific progress; but a baby cannot give his/her consent,” he said.

Babies, he explained, are not able to conceptualize pain, as an adult is able to do, and even minimal pain is disruptive for a baby. “Therefore, they should be handled with extreme care: some treatments acceptable for you, are terrible for a baby.”

“We can be deceived by the scarce reactivity of some babies, but this does not mean that they do not feel pain because scientific studies show that they feel it,” Bellieni added.

FEATURE: Legacy of Venerable Michael McGivney Pays Dividends Still

Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors Seek to Bring Catholic Values to Investing

This year, millions around the world paused to celebrate the legacy of an American-born priest from Connecticut whose faith embodied the call from James 1:27 to care for “widows and orphans.”  This year marks the 125th anniversary of the death at age 38 of Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, now the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, with some 1.9 million members internationally.

This year also marks another significant milestone for the Knights of Columbus, the introduction of a new service:  the Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors.  “We created the Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors to be of continued service to the Church,” explains Anthony Minopoli, President and Chief Investment Officer.  This work continues the Knights’ strong legacy of service to the financial needs of the faithful.

As of February 2015, the Knights of Columbus investment professionals managed nearly $22 billion in assets in both their insurance annuity and church loan businesses.  “The asset advisory services we now offer institutional investors is a natural extension of our other financial services businesses,” notes Minopoli.  The Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors now offers a suite of faith-based investment solutions through the same in-house group of portfolio managers, credit analysts and traders that manage the assets of the Knights’ other businesses. These investment solutions are managed strategically with Catholic moral screens consistent with Catholic Social Teaching.

The majority of the Knights of Columbus Asset Advisor clients are utilizing model client portfolios where they have selected one of the Knights’ asset allocation models, comprised of assets across the Knights’ six proprietary funds.  The typical Asset Advisor client is a Catholic diocese, college, hospital or foundation.

“In early 2016, we expect to launch our first Catholic alternative investment strategy,” explains Minopoli.  This product is a bank loan strategy that will take the Knights’ approximately $90 million loan portfolio and put it into a limited partnership so investors will be able to invest in a live portfolio. “The Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors will manage the top down strategy, capital raise, manage the Catholic investment compliance and handle client service,” says Minopoli.  “This will be the first and hopefully not the last of new products we bring to the Catholic institutional market,” notes Minopoli.

Father McGivney is often referred to as “Apostle to the Young” and “Protector of Family Life.”  His faith and focus on defending the Catholic faith and economically supporting the Catholic family inspired a group of Catholic family men from Connecticut to form the Knights of Columbus whose mission remains focused on four core principles:

Charity:  The great commandment—love thy neighbor as thyself.  This core tenet of faith compels the Knights to seek opportunities to help those in need, contributing millions of dollars and countless hours in service to others.

Unity: Solidarity—the idea that “none of us is a good as all of us.”  Together the Knights work together for the betterment of the parishes and communities.

Fraternity: Mutual support—the idea that we are called to take care of each other.  The Knights give of their time and talents to serve others.  The Order’s top-rated insurance program continues to provide assistance to “widows and orphans.”

Patriotism: Dedication—in service to God and country.  Patriotism entails a strong commitment to civil participation.

The Knights of Columbus recognize that their mission, and their faith in God, compels them to action.

“At the Knight of Columbus Asset Advisors we never hear the word ‘client.’ We owe a higher level of duty and care to those we serve,” explains Minopoli.

Bishop of Embu, Kenya: Health Care, History and Pope Francis

“Pope Francis comes to African soil as the greatest health care worker in the world. He has an army of professional health care workers behind him, working in every major city and in the last outposts of humanity”

Here is a reflection from Bishop Paul Kariuki of Embu, Kenya on health care, history and Pope Francis. The Holy Father will visit Kenya during his trip to Africa later this month.

* * *

Pope Francis comes to African soil as the greatest health care worker in the world. He has an army of professional health care workers behind him, working in every major city and in the last outposts of humanity. The Catholic Church has changed the history of health care. It is a legacy that goes back centuries. No other organisation shares that history. Today the Catholic Church is responsible for 30% of the hospitals in Kenya.

As part of her social teaching which promotes the dignity of every human being, be they babies in the womb or the elderly, the Church has always been interested in the health of the human body. She has fostered the highest standards of love and care and given witness to the fact that faith and science go together. The body and soul function as one. We cannot attend only to the soul and forget about the body.

Healing must be faith filled. Faith needs to be a major component in the health service. It is a guide and we need that guide. Man is served by faith but not in an abstract way. The goal for everyone with this visit is to deepen our faith. We need a greater faith practice, allowing our faith to percolate into our life, affect our personal choices, so that we make the right professional decisions.

We should let our faith engage more in social choices. Our faith should direct society’s choices according to what builds. Chesterton once said:  “to admire mere choice, is to refuse to choose”

We should lose our fears of taking a Catholic stand. This approach concerns everyone in society from the boda boda (public transport) operators to the legislators and is particularly relevant at present in health care.

We have a wealth of criteria coming from the Church in her documents. We need to know these criteria and know the why of the criteria, deepening in the theological underpinnings. Every Catholic Health Worker should be conversant with Humanae Vitae, Donum Vitae, and other great Church statements.

At the weakest moments of a person’s life a healthcare worker is there. These are moments to ask the deeper questions about life and its meaning. It is a God given moment to open the door of faith. We need to restore the creator’s space in the working of healthcare technology. We need to restore a true direction and faith is a true compass.

We need to confront the new global ethic agenda which is a result of moral relativism and which is targeting Africa at present.

There tends to be no mention of sex with responsibility. The UN proposes every form of abortion as a means to lower maternal mortality. What happens to women’s rights and doctors rights?

In Africa we need a paradigm shift not just for Catholics but for all health care workers. We need to change the culture of death programs and change them for culture of life alternatives.

Maternal mortality is rising in Sub Saharan Africa. We need to promote the scientific truth from the obstetrical community that this can only be solved by dealing with one mother at a time.

Governments and aid agencies have focused their attention on HIV Aids, they have forgotten women and mothers, this is reflected in their budgets. Only 7.9% of the UN budget is allocated to maternal and child health, which is where the people are dying.

Contraception and abortion are counter cultural to African values and have been proven to be ineffective in lowering maternal mortality.

Marriage, fertility and motherhood in Africa is a status symbol. It is a family based culture. Motherhood is celebrated. Infertility is an abomination. To put in place strategies that will make you infertile is not African.

The approach of some is to eliminate motherhood, not to eliminate maternal mortality.

The Hippocratic Oath has been edited so much it is now meaningless. There is a lot of violence done against women and children, often through a lack of communication of truth in relation to the side effects of contraceptives and abortion. One of the first rights of women is the right to know the truth.

We need a Marshall plan to help mothers and so do something about the most neglected of the millennium goals. It will take 275 years to reach the millennium goal of a reduction in maternal mortality if we keep going at the present rate, because mothers don’t matter to governments and international aid organisations.

Women’s groups talk of women, women, women, but say nothing of mothers, mothers, mothers. We need to restore the dignity of mothers.

Much has been achieved but much remains to be done. Every woman in the furthest village should have access to quality health and obstetric care, not the safe murder of her baby. In the latter system someone always dies which neither safe nor healthy.

When the missionaries came they brought with them education and health care. Hospitals spang up, many with a maternity wing. Christanity communicates a sacred character to maternity. We need to have a preferential option for mothers. With the maternity wings came neonatal units. The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.

All mothers share a special dignity because God has asked them to carry a child in their womb. To ignore human dignity is to ignore human rights. Mothers have the key to the first human right : life.

Obstetricians have a special role because they look after the co-creators of human life.

330,000 mothers die each year mainly in sub Saharan Africa. The big difference between the developed and under developed world is in obstetrical risk.

We need more respect for conscientious objection by doctors, nurses and medical and nursing students. No one should be forced to do anything against their conscience.

Ghandi once encouraged people “to be the change you desire to see”. We need to get our hospitals and health centres to work better.  It is not enough to break even. They have to make money in order to ensure their financial stability. This does not imply making exorbitant charges.  It means getting honest and competent professionals to run our institutions. It means installing state of the art systems to curb profligacy. It means taking care of the welfare of our health workers.

The presence of Pope Francis can function as a modern areopagus and help us deliberate on truth that is rationally sustainable. The probability of churning out error is greater than that of churning out truth. He will remind us of the importance of standards to guide legislators in respecting the dignity of the human person.

(Bishop Paul Kariuki is the Chairman of the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya (CHCK)

South Sudan Religious Leaders Cry Out for Help: ‘People Are Dying as We Speak’

Catholic, Protestant, Muslim leaders join in appeal

This report is contribued by Oliver Maksan of Aid to the Church in Need.

* * *

Religious leaders of South Sudan have made an urgent appeal for help from the international community. The fledgling nation’s Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders spoke out on behalf of their people in Mundri region, who, fleeing heavy fighting, are now forced to live in devastating conditions. Thousands of human lives are at risk, the leaders said in a letter sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“As we speak people are already dying, and in particular children and elderly people. During the past two months more than 80,000 people have been forced to live in the bush and the jungle. Children and women are those most affected. They will be exposed to a variety of epidemics and to starvation if they don’t get help soon,” said the leaders, who called for an immediate cessation of all military operations in the Mundri region so that humanitarian supplies can be brought in.

Local missionary Father David Kulandai Samy, MMI, reported: “Our people who have moved into bushes are facing untold misery; particularly children suffer without food, water and medical assistance. Community people’s standing crops have been destroyed and their assets were looted, including cattle,” said the priest, who himself only just managed to avoid getting shot. “With the grace of God we had a narrow escape from gunfire and we thank God for having survived,” he said.

The violence in the region is linked to a tribal conflict that broke out last September, against the backdrop of the country’s ongoing civil war. Nine fighters belonging to the Dinka tribe where killed by government troops—themselves belonging to the Nuer tribe—who also attacked members of the Moru tribe, who in turn attacked Dinka. Residents fleeing the outburst of violence briefly found refuge in Church facilities, but these too came under fire from government combat helicopters, which sparked a massive exodus to the bush. According to Father Samy, many people have been killed. 

In a message to the West, the missionary said: “We would return as soon as the situation gets back to normal and work towards rebuilding the lives of the scattered Catholic families and other tribal communities. We would request you to pray for us and our community, which is undergoing incalculable misery and hardship.”

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); <em>www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

FORUM: The Courage of Jesus Christ

A community of support for those with same-sex attraction brings courage to carry the cross

Here is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.

* * *

The novelist William Faulkner understood the virtue of courage. He understood that to be courageous implies taking a risk; stepping foot into the unknown; pursuing a good even when it might place us in danger. 

“You cannot swim for new horizons,” he wrote, “until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Jesus Christ called his disciples to the same kind of courage. He told them to lose sight of the shore’s safety—to “cast out into the deep,” where they would find the abundance of his grace. In him, and because of him, they had the courage to follow Jesus to an abundant life—an extraordinary life—but only because they were willing to risk the unknown.

When Pope St. John Paul II was inaugurated, in 1978, he echoed Jesus’ call for courage. “Do not be afraid to follow Jesus,” he told the world. “Take courage—Corragio!”

It can take courage to follow Christ to the world with the Gospel. But it can take even more courage to open ourselves to Christ—to allow the Gospel to transform our own hearts, to loosen what binds us, to set us free for the abundant life we’re made for. “Do not be afraid to open yourselves to Jesus,” Pope St. John Paul said, have “courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves,” in the grace of God.

Nothing can be more daunting than revealing the brokenness and challenges of our lives to the Lord, and asking him to bring us healing and wholeness. Seeking grace is always an act of courage. But acts of courage—losing sight of the shore—lead us to new horizons.

In 1980, the late Cardinal Terrence Cooke served as a spiritual advisor to men and women with homosexual attractions, seeking to live the fullness of God’s plan for their lives—seeking to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Cardinal Cooke and Father John Harvey began forming groups—which they called “Courage”—of men and women with homosexual attractions, dedicated to chastity, prayer, friendship, and mutual support. Courage groups now meet across the globe, helping to form and support those Catholics with the courage to seek God’s grace, and to follow after the Gospel. We’re blessed, in the Diocese of Lincoln, by the ministry of Courage.

Dan, Rilene, and Paul are three Catholics who’ve experienced healing and mercy through Jesus Christ—and through the ministry of Courage. And last year, they had the courage to share the story of their extraordinary lives in Jesus Christ in “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” a documentary in which they share their hope in Jesus Christ, and the challenges they’ve faced in the experience of same-sex attraction.

The candid discussion of their lives reveals their humanity, their crosses, and the profundity of their own courage. It also reveals how damaging the homosexual lifestyle can be to men and women with same-sex attraction. And it reveals the need for the Church—and for Catholics—to welcome those with same-sex attraction as human beings, in true friendship, calling to conversion, but also expressing true compassion for the challenges of their lives. Following Jesus takes courage for each one of us—and appreciating the courage of those who follow Jesus despite cultural and emotional pressure to reject the Gospel, is instructive and inspirational.

The Church should always be a place of welcome for those in need of healing, mercy, and courage. God’s plan—setting out into the deep—is the best possible plan for each one of us. And inviting men and women with same-sex attraction to know the meaning of the Gospel—and to experience supportive and prayerful chaste communities—is a part of our Christian mission.

I pray that those with same-sex attraction will have the courage to follow the Gospel, and to contact the community of Courage. And I pray that each of us will have the courage to welcome, invite, and respect those who carry heavy burdens, and who are in need of the healing presence of Jesus Christ.

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