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Jesuit priest kidnapped in Afghanistan

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Catholic News Service

ROME — A Jesuit priest from India was kidnapped June 2 as he was leaving a school serving children who were recently returned to Afghanistan after living as refugees in Iran or Pakistan.

The Rome headquarters of the Jesuit Refugee Service confirmed that its Afghanistan country director, Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, “was abducted by a group of unidentified men” as he was leaving a JRS-supported school for returnee refugees in Sohadat village, about 15 miles from the city of Herat in western Afghanistan.

Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar of India was kidnapped June 2 as he was leaving a school serving children recently returned to Afghanistan after living as refugees in Iran or Pakistan. He is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy JRS)

“We are deeply shocked by Prem’s abduction. We are in contact with all the relevant authorities and doing everything possible to ensure his safe and speedy return,” said Jesuit Father Peter Balleis, international director of JRS.

Church officials in India expressed concern for the safety of Father Prem Kumar, 47, who has worked in Afghanistan since 2011.

“We are worried and concerned about the kidnap of Father Alexis,” Father Edward Muduvassery, Jesuit provincial for South Asia, told Catholic News Service June 3 from his office in New Delhi.

Father Joseph Chinnayan, deputy secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, appealed to the Indian government to quickly to seek the Jesuit’s release.

Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the India’s External Affairs Ministry, said via a Twitter post that Indian officials in Herat were pursuing the matter with local authorities, Asian church news portal ucanews.com reported

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction, Father Muduvassery said.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and very much concerned about the well-being of Father (Prem Kumar),” he said.

Before moving to Afghanistan, Father Prem Kumar worked for JRS for 12 years, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, his home. He was director of JRS in India from June 2005 to May 2011 and then moved to Afghanistan.

JRS works in Kabul, Herat, Bamiyan and Day Kundi, supporting government programs in education.

“The kidnapping follows the thwarted attack (May 23) on the Indian consulate in Herat by four armed gunmen who were killed by security guards,” the JRS press statement said.

When asked whether the kidnapping is linked to recent attacks on Indian targets by Taliban forces, Father Muduvassery said, “We cannot speculate on anything.”

“We have no clue so far regarding the kidnappers as there has been no ransom or other calls,” he added.

The JRS statement said no additional comment would be made until the case is resolved.

Jesuit Father Giuseppe Moretti, superior of the Jesuit mission in Afghanistan, told the Vatican’s Fides news agency June 3 that “the kidnapping of foreigners happens frequently throughout the country. We know only that he was taken by armed men; it could have been a Taliban faction or common criminals.”

 

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Pope Francis prays with 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome

June 2nd, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

ROME — Meeting more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Pope Francis admitted he was not always comfortable with the way they prayed, but he knelt onstage as they prayed for him and over him by singing and speaking in tongues.

“In the early years of the charismatic renewal in Buenos Aires, I did not have much love for charismatics,” the pope said June 1. “I said of them: They seem like a samba school.”

Pope Francis arrives for an encounter with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics at the Olympic Stadium in Rome June 1. The pope knelt onstage as the crowd prayed over him by singing and speaking in tongues. During the event the pope acknowledged he had once been uncomfortable with the charismatic movement. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Little by little, though, he came to see how much good the movement was doing for Catholics and for the church, he told a gathering organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

50th anniversary in 2017

Pope Francis invited the crowd, which included charismatics from 55 countries, to come to St. Peter’s Square for Pentecost in 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement. The Catholic charismatic movement traces its origins to a retreat held in 1967 with students and staff from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

“I expected all of you, charismatics from around the world, to celebrate your great jubilee with the pope at Pentecost 2017 in St. Peter’s Square,” the pope said.

The celebration in Rome’s Olympic Stadium began with the song, “Vive Jesus, El Senor,” (“Jesus, the Lord, Lives”) a Spanish-language song which Pope Francis, who claims he is tone deaf,  joined in singing with his hands open like many in the crowd. The pope said he likes the song, which charismatics in Argentina also sing.

“When I celebrated the holy Mass with the charismatic renewal in the Buenos Aires cathedral, after the consecration and after a few seconds of adoration in tongues, we sang this song with such joy and strength,” he said.

At another point, when the crowd prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill Pope Francis, he knelt on the bare floor of the stage, while they sang with their hands raised toward him. After the song, many in the crowd kept their hands raised as they prayed in tongues, speaking in unfamiliar languages.

Responding to a married couple, who spoke about the renewal’s positive impact on their family life, Pope Francis said the family is the domestic church, the place where Jesus’ presence grows in the love of spouses and in the lives of their children. “This is why the enemy attacks the family so hard; the devil doesn’t like it, and tries to destroy it.”

“May the Lord bless families and strengthen them during this crisis when the devil wants to destroy them,” the pope prayed.

‘A current of grace’

In a speech, Pope Francis told the charismatics that they their movement was begun by the Holy Spirit as “a current of grace in the church and for the church.”

He pleaded with charismatic groups not to try to organize everything or create a bureaucracy that attempts to tame the Holy Spirit.

The temptation “to become ‘controllers’ of the grace of God” is a danger, the pope said. Group leaders, sometimes without even meaning to, become “administrators of grace,” deciding who should exercise which gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Don’t do this anymore,” Pope Francis said. “Be dispensers of God’s grace, not controllers. Don’t be the Holy Spirit’s customs agents.”

From the beginning, he said, charismatics were known for their love of and familiarity with the Scriptures; the pope asked those who lost the habit of carrying their Bible with them everywhere to “return to this first love, always have the word of God in your pocket or purse.”

Pope Francis also said Catholic charismatics have a special role to play in healing divisions among Christians by exercising “spiritual ecumenism” or praying with members of other Christian churches and communities who share a belief in Jesus as lord and savior.

A related video has been posted at http://youtu.be/xWcujx1II2w

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Pope denounces world’s’ indifference’ to war, suffering in Syria

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A “globalization of indifference” has taken hold of too many of the world’s people, numbing them to the horrifying reality faced by the people of Syria and other innocent victims of war and violence around the world, Pope Francis said.

A medic treats a boy who was injured after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad at a hospital in Idlib, Syria, May 15. (CNS photo/Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)

With the Syrian conflict continuing for more than three years, “there is a risk of becoming used to it” and forgetting that people are dying there each day, the pope said May 30 in a message to participants at a Vatican-hosted meeting for Catholic aid agencies.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable activity, brought together two dozen Catholic relief and development agencies that are working in Syria or with Syrian refugees. The meeting was designed to help them work together more efficiently and reach more people in need.

Announcing the meeting, Cor Unum said that, according to the most recent data, about 160,000 people have died since fighting began in Syria in March 2011, some 6 million people are displaced within Syria and more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country, most finding refuge in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

In his message to the Catholic charities, Pope Francis expressed his “great sadness” that the Syrian conflict continues, creating “unspeakable suffering and thousands of refugees, including the elderly and children, who suffer and sometimes die of hunger and war-related illnesses.”

The work of Catholic charities is “a faithful expression of God’s love for his children who find themselves in situations of oppression and anguish,” the pope said. “God hears their cries, knows the sufferings and wants to free them.”

Pope Francis praised the Catholic charities for lending God “your hands and your abilities” in order to help “all the victims of the war without distinction of ethnicity, religion or social group.”

Once again, Pope Francis pleaded with the warring parties to guarantee emergency humanitarian assistance, to put down their weapons and make a commitment to dialogue.

 

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Vatican denies there’s an investigation of former official

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican spokesman denied a German newspaper report that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, retired Vatican secretary of state, was under criminal investigation for misappropriating funds from the so-called Vatican bank.

“No investigation of a criminal nature is being conducted by the Vatican magistrate involving Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, in a statement issued late May 20.

The German newspaper Bild had published a report the day before claiming an investigation had been launched into a 15-million-euro (about $20.5 million) loss resulting from an arrangement with Lux Vide, an Italian producer of television programs and films, mostly of a religious nature.

At the time the arrangement was made, Cardinal Bertone was president of the cardinals’ commission overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank. In mid-January, Pope Francis replaced Cardinal Bertone and another three of the five cardinals on the commission.

Speaking to several Italian media outlets May 20, Cardinal Bertone denied the Bild report and said the agreement the institute made with Lux Vide “was discussed and approved” by the bank’s commission of cardinals and its board of supervisors Dec. 4.

When Rene Brulhart, director of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority, presented his office’s report for 2013 to the press May 19, a Bild reporter asked whether an investigation had been launched into Cardinal Bertone’s role in the affair. Brulhart refused to “confirm or deny” the existence of an investigation and insisted he would answer no questions about specific financial transactions in the Vatican.

 

 

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Destroying creation is destroying a gift of God, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Polluting or destroying the environment is like telling God one does not like what he created and proclaimed to be good, Pope Francis said.

The Bible says that after every stage of creation, God was pleased with what he had made, the pope said May 21 at his weekly general audience. “To destroy creation is to say to God, ‘I don’t like it.’”

Splinters of ice peel off from one of the sides of the Perito Moreno glacier during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months in early July near El Calafate, Argentina. Polluting or destroying the environment is like telling God one does not like what he created and proclaimed to be good, Pope Francis said at his May 21 general audience. (CNS file)

On the other hand, he said, safeguarding creation is safeguarding a gift of God. “This must be our attitude toward creation: safeguarding it. If not, if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us. Don’t forget that.”

Continuing a series of audience talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said the gift of knowledge helps people see creation with God’s eyes, recognizing its beauty and seeing it as a sign of God’s love for men and women, who are the crown of his creation.

“Creation is not a property that we can dominate at our pleasure nor does it belong to only a few,” he said. “Creation is a gift, a marvelous gift God has given us to care for and use for the benefit of all with great respect and gratitude.”

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord — are not simply human virtues or talents, the pope said. And knowledge is not just the human capacity “to understand the reality that surrounds us and discover the laws that regulate nature and the universe.”

Rather, he said, the gift of knowledge helps people understand, “through creation, the greatness of the love of God and his profound relationship with every creature.”

The gift of knowledge helps people recognize that all things that are beautiful, both things found in nature and things that are the result of human ingenuity, speak of God, he said. “The Spirit leads us to praise the Lord from the depths of our heart and to recognize, in all that we have and all that we are, a invaluable gift of God and a sign of his infinite love for us.”

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis led the recitation of the Hail Mary as a prayer for the victims of flooding in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia. He asked the international community to assist the two Balkan nations, where more than three dozen people died and tens of thousands were left homeless in late May.

Pope Francis also told the estimated 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square that May 24 is the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a Marian feast particularly dear to Catholics in mainland China. He asked people to pray that “Catholics in China may continue to believe, to hope and to love and, in every circumstance, to be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among their fellow citizens.”

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140521_udienza-generale_en.html

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140521_udienza-generale_sp.html

 

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Pope says his Holy Land trip this weekend will be ‘strictly religious’

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Asking prayers for his May 24-26 trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”

At the end of his weekly general audience May 21, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.

A Palestinian youth hangs a flag next to posters depicting Pope Francis outside a souvenir shop in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 19. Pope Francis will visit Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel during his May 24-26 Holy Land trip, his first as pope to the region. (CNS photo/Mussa Qawasma, Reuters)

The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The meeting launched a new era of ecumenical cooperation and dialogue.

“Peter and Andrew will meet once again, and this is very beautiful,” the pope said. Pope Francis is considered the successor of the apostle Peter and Patriarch Bartholomew the successor of his brother, the apostle Andrew.

The pope said the second reason for his trip is “to pray for peace in that land that suffers so much.”

He asked the people in the square to pray for the success of the trip.

Pope Francis is scheduled to leave the Vatican early May 24 and fly to Amman, Jordan, for a full day of meetings, a public Mass and an encounter with refugees and people with disabilities.

The next morning he is to fly to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian leaders, a Mass and a meeting at a Palestinian refugee camp. The evening of May 25, he plans to go to Jerusalem to meet Patriarch Bartholomew.

The last day of the trip, May 26, the pope will meet with Muslim, Jewish and Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, pray at the Western Wall and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, then meet again with Patriarch Bartholomew and with Catholic groups.

 

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Jesuit superior intends to resign in 2016

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, announced his intention to resign in late 2016 after he turns 80.

“Reflecting on the coming years, I have reached the personal conviction that I should take the needed steps toward submitting my resignation to a general congregation,” Father Nicolas said in a letter dated May 20 and sent to Jesuits around the world.

Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, greeted Pope Francis when he arrived to celebrate Mass at the Church of the Gesu in Rome Jan. 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Father Nicolas, who was elected in 2008, said he already has discussed the idea with Pope Francis, a Jesuit, with officials at the Jesuit headquarters and with Jesuit provincials around the world.

“The result of the consultation is favorable toward the convening of a general congregation,” he said.

Like the pope, the superior general of the Jesuits is elected for life, although the Jesuit constitutions include provisions for the superior general to resign. Father Nicolas succeeded Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who resigned at the age of 79. At the time, Father Kolvenbach said, “the Society of Jesus has the right to be governed and animated by a Jesuit in full possession of his physical and spiritual talents and not by a companion whose energies continue to diminish because of age.”

When delegates to the general congregation accepted his resignation, Father Kolvenbach thanked them “for so graciously firing me.”

Five days later, the delegates elected Father Nicolas, a Spaniard who had been serving as moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania. At the time, Father Nicolas told reporters it was unlikely any Jesuit leader again would feel an absolute obligation to serve until death.

The Society of Jesus, the largest religious order of men in the Catholic Church, includes about 17,000 priests and brothers.

 

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Believers in dialogue seek truth and challenge one another, Vatican says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When Catholics engage in interreligious dialogue, their aim is not to convert their dialogue partners, but they should not exclude that possibility, say new Vatican guidelines on interreligious dialogue.

The document also cautions Catholics against joining in common prayer with followers of other religions, because of important differences in their understanding of God.

“In encounters with people of other religions and indeed all human beings, Christians must always make Jesus Christ better known, recognized and loved,” say the guidelines published by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“Dialogue in Truth and Charity: Pastoral Orientations for Interreligious Dialogue” was published May 19 in conjunction with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the council’s establishment by Pope Paul VI.

“Interreligious dialogue, in itself, does not aim at conversion. Nevertheless, it does not exclude that it might be an occasion of conversion,” the document says.

For a true dialogue to occur, it says, both the Christian and his or her dialogue partner must know and practice their own faith. “With an attitude of respect and friendship,” it says, they share with each other their religion’s teachings and challenge one another to grow deeper in faithfulness and in understanding the truth about God.

“Experience has shown that for the individual firmly rooted in his or her own religion,” the guidelines say, “dialogue can offer a unique occasion to deepen one’s own religious beliefs, thereby facilitating growth and maturity.”

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the council’s 2008 plenary, the guidelines say the church “encourages Christian partners in dialogue with the followers of other religions to propose, but not impose, faith in Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.”

Catholics engaged in dialogue must be “guided by faith, animated by charity and oriented toward the common good through mutual respect, knowledge and trust,” the document says.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue included in the guidelines strong cautions about dialogue partners praying together.

“Often in the context of interreligious relationships, there comes a desire to pray together for a particular need of the society,” the guidelines say. “It is important, however, to understand that being able to pray in common requires a shared understanding of who God is. Since religions differ in their understanding of God, ‘interreligious prayer,’ meaning the joining together in common prayer by followers of various religions, is to be avoided.”

On some occasions, the document says, it would be appropriate for believers of different religions to pray in each other’s presence, but it should be clear to all that participants are not praying together.

The document also includes a discussion of “proselytism” and evangelization and how they relate to interreligious dialogue.

“Proselytism in the biblical sense of bringing people to conversion is good,” it says, but in many circles today it is used to refer to efforts to convert another using coercion, psychological pressure, threats, fraud or enticements. “At the table of dialogue, this kind of negative proselytism must be recognized for what it is: an affront to conscience and a transgression of natural law.”

In fact, the document says, promoting respect for freedom of conscience, human dignity and the right of all people to follow a religion, to change religious affiliation or to not believe is something followers of different religions can and should be doing together.

Catholics and members of other religions, it says, must work together “to ensure that governments honor their obligation to protect the rights of individuals as well as communities to choose, profess and practice their religious beliefs privately and publicly,” as long as public order and the rights of others are respected.

Again quoting Pope Benedict, the document says, “Dialogue in truth entails that all believers view dialogue ‘not only as a means of enhancing mutual understanding, but also a way of serving society at large’ by ‘bearing witness to those moral truths which they hold in common with all men and women of goodwill.’”

Catholics, it says, are motivated to engage in dialogue with others because of their belief that all people are brothers and sisters created by God; because God sent Jesus into the world to reconcile humanity to himself; and because the Holy Spirit is at work in the world and in the hearts of men and women, “even beyond her (the church’s) visible boundaries.”

Catholics believe that Jesus and his church are necessary for salvation, the document says, although exactly how that occurs in all situations may not be immediately apparent. “Whoever is saved by God is without doubt linked to, and in relationship with, the church, although at times not in an outwardly apparent manner,” it says.

“A person who does not appreciate the positive elements in other religions, as monuments for the human search for God, is clearly an inappropriate interlocutor for interreligious dialogue,” the guidelines say.

The obstacles to true dialogue listed by the document include: a lack of enthusiasm for witnessing to Christ, which is essential for a Christian; a temptation to think all religions are equally valid; syncretism, or a blending of elements from different religions; ignoring real differences, which in effect downplays the importance of a religion’s teaching; a weak faith or knowledge of one’s own faith; insufficient knowledge or misunderstanding of the beliefs of the dialogue partner; a lack of appreciation for the positive elements in the other’s religion; and using dialogue for personal, political or economic gain.

 

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Pope Francis recommends resolving church tensions with discussion, prayer

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In the church, as in any other situation, “problems cannot be resolved by pretending they don’t exist,” Pope Francis said.

“Confronting one another, discussing and praying — that is how conflicts in the church are resolved,” the pope said May 18 before praying the “Regina Coeli” with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

A child waves a flag as Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 18. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope focused his remarks on the day’s first reading, Acts 6:1-7, which describes how the early Christian community, as it grew to include people from different groups, began to experience internal tensions, and how those tensions were resolved at a meeting of the disciples.

Facing the problem, discussing solutions and praying about the tensions, he said, the disciples found harmony and an end to a situation in which there was “discontent, complaints, accusations of favoritism and inequality.”

“Gossip, envy and jealousy never can bring agreement, harmony and peace,” the pope said. “No gossip, no envy, no jealousy, you understand?” he asked the crowd.

After praying the “Regina Coeli,” Pope Francis asked people to join him praying a Hail Mary for the victims of recent flooding in Serbia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 

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Pope establishes panel to hear appeals of clerical offenders

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican indicated Pope Francis was establishing a commission under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to examine the appeals of priests punished for sexual abuse of minors and other very serious crimes.

In a brief note May 19, the Vatican press office announced the pope had nominated Argentine Archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of Rosario to be a member of the congregation “in the commission being established to examine the appeals of clergy for ‘delicta graviora,’” the Vatican term for sexual abuse of minors and serious sins against the sacraments.

The Vatican did not provide further details about the commission, when it would be established or what the extent of its mandate would be. It did not mention what Archbishop Mollaghan’s position on the commission would be.

In indicating that the archbishop has headed the Archdiocese of Rosario “until now,” the announcement signaled that being part of the commission would be a full-time job in Rome.

AICA, the Argentine Catholic news agency, reported May 19 that Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, Vatican nuncio to Argentina, announced Archbishop Mollaghan’s appointment and said he would serve as apostolic administrator of Rosario until a new archbishop is named.

Archbishop Mollaghan, 68, holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was named an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1993, one year after the current pope became an auxiliary bishop in the city. The two worked together until Archbishop Mollaghan was named bishop of San Miguel in 2000.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, told a committee there May 6 that, between 2004 and 2013, the Holy See dismissed 848 priests from the priesthood as a result of sex abuse allegations found to be true. In another 2,572 cases, mainly involving priests of an advanced age, the men were ordered to have no contact with children and were ordered to retreat to a life of prayer and penance.

 

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