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Site of 1917 Marian apparitions continues to draw pilgrims

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY — While conversion and prayer are at the heart of Mary’s messages at Fatima, Portugal, the miracles and unexplained phenomena that accompanied the events 100 years ago continue to intrigue believers and nonbelievers alike.

The apparitions of Mary at Fatima in 1917 were not the first supernatural events reported there. Read more »

Faith leads to freedom, not compromise, Pope Francis says

April 24th, 2017 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian faith is belief in the concrete work of God and leads to concrete witness and action by believers, Pope Francis said.

The Christian creed details concrete events because “the Word was made flesh, it was not made an idea,” the pope said April 24 during his morning Mass in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass April 24 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican. (CNS /L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis celebrates his morning Mass April 24 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican. (CNS /L’Osservatore Romano)

“The creed does not say, ‘I believe I must do this, that I must do that’ or that ‘things are made for this reason.’ No. They are concrete things,” such as belief in God who made heaven and earth or believe in Jesus who was born of Mary, was crucified, died and was buried, the pope noted.

The concreteness of faith “leads to frankness, to giving witness to the point of martyrdom; it is against compromises or the idealization of faith,” he said.

Pope Francis reflected on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recalled Peter and John’s release after they were imprisoned by the Sanhedrin following the miraculous healing of a cripple.

Noting their courage in the face of persecution, the pope said that their defiance of the Sanhedrin’s order not to preach in the name of Jesus was an example of the concrete nature of faith, “which means speaking the truth openly without compromises.”

The “rationalistic mentality” shown by the Sanhedrin, the pope added, did not end with them, and even the church at times has fallen into the same way of thinking.

“The church itself, which condemned rationalism, the Enlightenment, many times fell into a theology of ‘you can do this and you can’t do that,’” forgetting the freedom that comes from the Holy Spirit and gives believers the gift of frankness and of proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, the pope said.

“May the Lord give us all this Easter spirit of following the path of the Spirit without compromise, without rigidity, with the freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ as he came: in the flesh,” Pope Francis said.

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Divine Mercy opens the door to understanding the mystery of God, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Mercy is a true form of knowledge that allows men and women to understand the mystery of God’s love for humanity, Pope Francis said.

Having experienced forgiveness, Christians have a duty to forgive others, giving a “visible sign” of God’s mercy, which “carries within it the peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord,” the pope said April 23 before praying the “Regina Coeli” with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

A child waves a Mexican flag as Pope Francis leads the "Regina Coeli" in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 23, Divine Mercy Sunday. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

A child waves a Mexican flag as Pope Francis leads the “Regina Coeli” in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 23, Divine Mercy Sunday. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

“Mercy helps us understand that violence, resentment and revenge do not have any meaning and that the first victim is the one who lives with these feelings, because he is deprived of his own dignity,” he said.

Commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said St. John Paul II’s establishment of the feast in 2000 was a “beautiful intuition” inspired by the Holy Spirit.

God’s mercy, he said, not only “opens the door of the mind,” it also opens the door of the heart and paves the way for compassion toward those who are “alone or marginalized because it makes them feel they are brothers and sisters and children of one father.”

“Mercy, in short, commits us all to being instruments of justice, of reconciliation and peace. Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form by which we give visibility to Jesus’ resurrection,” Pope Francis said.

 

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A closed heart can’t be surprised by the Resurrection, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian faith is a grace and can be perceived only in the hearts of those willing to be surprised by the joy of the Resurrection, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a young choir member during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 19. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a young choir member during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 19. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“A closed heart, a rationalistic heart” is incapable of understanding the Christian message which has God’s love, manifested in Christ’s victory over death, at its center, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 19.

“How beautiful it is to think that Christianity is essentially this: It is not so much our search for God, a search that is, truthfully, somewhat shaky, but rather God’s search for us,” the pope said.

The pope, bundled up in a white overcoat due to the unusually chilly and windy weather, entered a packed St. Peter’s Square in his popemobile. Immediately, he invited two girls and a boy, dressed in their altar server robes, to board the vehicle and ride with him around the square.

Pope Francis also took a moment to greet an elderly woman who, overcome with emotion, cried and stretched out her arms to embrace the pope. He stooped over, warmly embracing the woman and gently caressing her face before making the sign of the cross over her forehead.

Continuing his series of talks on hope, the pope reflected on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians in which the apostle emphasizes the Resurrection as “the heart of the Christian message.”

“Christianity is born from here. It is not an ideology nor a philosophic system but a path of faith that begins from an event, witnessed by Jesus’ first disciples,” the pope said.

St. Paul’s summary of those who witnessed the risen Christ, he noted, ends by describing himself as the “least worthy of all” given his dramatic history as a one-time adversary of the early Christians.

St. Paul “wasn’t a choirboy. He was a persecutor of the church, proud of his own convictions,” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. But “one day something completely unpredictable happens: the encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.”

It is the surprise of this encounter, the pope continued, that all Christians are called to experience “even if we are sinners.”

Like the first disciples who saw the stone overturned at Jesus’ tomb, all men and women can find “happiness, joy and life where everyone thought there was only sadness, defeat and darkness,” the pope said.

God, Pope Francis said, is greater than “nothingness and just one lit candle is able to overcome the darkest night.”

“If we are asked the reason for our smile and our patient sharing, we can respond that Jesus is still here, he continues to be alive in our midst,” the pope said. “Jesus is here, in this square with us, alive and risen.”

 

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Pope washes feet of 12 prison inmates at Holy Thursday Mass

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a gesture of service toward marginalized people, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, including three women and a man who is converting from Islam to Catholicism.

Although in Jesus’ time, washing the feet of one’s guests was performed by slaves, Jesus “reverses” this role, the pope said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper April 13 at a prison 45 miles from Rome.

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“He came into this world to serve, to serve us. He came to make himself a slave for us, to give his life for us and to love us to the end,” he said.

Pope Francis made his way by car to a penitentiary in Paliano, which houses 70 men and women who testified as a witness for the state against associates or accomplices.

To protect the safety and security of the prisoners, only a live audio feed of the pope’s homily was provided by Vatican Radio as well as selected photographs released by the Vatican.

The Vatican said April 13 that among the 12 inmates who participated in the foot washing ceremony, “two are sentenced to life imprisonment and all the others should finish their sentences between 2019 and 2073.”

In his brief homily, which he delivered off-the-cuff, the pope said that upon his arrival, people greeted him saying, “‘Here comes the pope, the head of the church.'”

“Jesus is the head of the church. The pope is merely the image of Jesus, and I want to do the same as he did. In this ceremony, the pastor washes the feet of the faithful. (The role) reverses: The one who seems to be the greatest must do the work of a slave,” he said.

This gesture, he continued, is meant to “sow love among us” and that the faithful, even those in prison, can imitate Christ in the same manner.

“I ask that if you can perform a help or a service for your companion here in prison, do it. This is love, this is like washing the feet. It means being the servant of the other,” the pope said.

Recalling another Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest among them must be at the service of others, Pope Francis said Christ put his words into action by washing his disciple’s feet and “it is what Jesus does with us.”

“For this reason, during this ceremony, let us think about Jesus. This isn’t a folkloric ceremony. It is a gesture to remind us of what Jesus gave us. After this, he took bread and gave us his body; he took wine and gave us his blood. This is the love of God,” the pope said.

Vatican Radio reported that several other inmates took an active role in the liturgy, including four who served as altar servers. Other inmates prepared homemade gifts for the pope, among them were two dessert cakes, a handcrafted wooden cross and fresh vegetables grown in the prison garden.

The evening Mass was the second of two Holy Thursday liturgies for Pope Francis. The first was a morning chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

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Make room for kindness, not hopeless ‘mafia’ mentality, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hope cannot remain hidden within but must break free to overcome vengeful, mafia-like mentalities with mercy and humility, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis kisses a Marian statue presented by someone in the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a Marian statue presented by someone in the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Christians must give witness to hope through their lives as Jesus did and make room for him in their hearts to fight evil by doing good to others, even their enemies, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 5.

“The mafiosi think that evil can be overcome by evil. They take revenge; they do so many things that we all know. But they do not know what humility, mercy and meekness are. And why? Because the mafiosi have no hope,” he said.

Arriving in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis made his way through the crowd of 15,000 people, greeting individuals and even making a quick stop to sip some mate tea offered by a group of pilgrims from his native Argentina.

Arriving at the stage, the pope spotted a familiar face among the Argentine pilgrims, and warmly embraced an elderly woman and spoke to her while other people in the group reached out to touch him.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a verse from the First Letter of St. Peter, in which the apostle calls on Christians to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”

The “secret” to understanding this hope, the pope said, is that it is rooted in the paschal mystery of Christ’s victory over death.

“Our hope is not a concept nor a sentiment; it is not phone call or a pile of riches,” he said. “No, our hope is a person, it is the Lord Jesus who we recognize alive and present in us and in our brothers and sisters.”

A person who lacks hope, the pope added, is incapable of giving or receiving the “consolation of forgiveness” and unable to make room for Christ in their hearts.

St. Peter’s assertion that “it is better to suffer for doing good” than doing evil, he continued, doesn’t mean that it is good to suffer, but that suffering for the sake of good means “that we are in communion with the Lord.”

Christians who wish to follow Jesus’ example are called to love and do good, even to “those who do not wish us well or even harm us,” Pope Francis said.

“It is the proclamation of God’s love, an immeasurable love that is unending, that is never lacking and constitutes the very foundation of our hope,” he said.

 

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Pope Francis condemns shocking chemical massacre in Syria

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis strongly condemned a shocking chemical attack in Syria that left some 70 people, including at least 10 children, dead.

A child receives treatment inside a field hospital in Idlib, Syria, after April 3 airstrikes. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria's rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people April 3, opposition activists said. (CNS photo/via EPA)

A child receives treatment inside a field hospital in Idlib, Syria, after April 3 airstrikes. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province killed dozens of people April 3, opposition activists said. (CNS photo/via EPA)

“We are horrified by the latest events in Syria. I strongly deplore the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday in the Idlib province, where dozens of civilians, including many children, were killed,” the pope said April 5 before concluding his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Images of dead men, women and children lying on the streets provoked international outrage following the attack April 4 in a rebel-held area.

Western leaders have accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and the country’s military of perpetrating the attack, based on reports that warplanes dropped chemical bombs in the early morning.

According to The New York Times, the Syrian military denied attacking the town and said the attack was caused by insurgents who blame the Syrian government for similar attacks “every time they fail to achieve the goals of their sponsors.”

Pope Francis encouraged those helping with relief efforts in Idlib province, and he appealed to world leaders to put an end to the violence.

“I appeal to the conscience of those who have political responsibility at the local and international level, so that this tragedy may come to an end and relief may come to that beloved population who for too long have been devastated by war,” the pope said.

The attack occurred the same day representatives from more than 70 countries were gathering in Brussels for an April 4-5 conference on resolving the humanitarian crisis in Syria and to discuss ways to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, was among the representatives and addressed the conference April 5.

The Holy See, he said, “remains deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering, affecting millions of innocent children and other civilians who remain deprived of essential humanitarian aid, medical facilities and education.”

He called for humanitarian laws to “be fully respected,” especially “with regard to the protection of civilian populations” and the “conditions and treatment of prisoners.”

“The Holy See invites all parties to the Syrian conflict to spare no effort to end the seemingly endless cycle of violence, to restore that sense of solidarity that is the basis of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence,” Archbishop Gallagher said.

The pope also said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims of the bombing of a metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia, that killed 14 people and left 50 wounded.

Chaos erupted April 3 when a bomb was detonated in a subway train. Police said the bomber was Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, a Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan. Following the attack, security forces said a second bomb was found at a nearby station, but it had failed to explode.

“As I entrust to God’s mercy those who have tragically died, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all who suffer because of this tragic event,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Pope Francis meets Prince Charles at the Vatican

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, met April 4 with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The pope and the British royals spoke privately for 27 minutes. The Vatican did not issue a statement about the topics covered in the private conversation.

Pope Francis talks with Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a private audience April 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Pinto/Reuters)

Pope Francis talks with Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a private audience April 4 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vincenzo Pinto/Reuters)

Following their private meeting, Prince Charles introduced the 15 members of a delegation accompanying him. Among them was Arthur Edwards, a Catholic who has served as the official photographer of the royal household.

“He is an important man. He has followed us for 40 years,” the prince told Pope Francis.

After the presentation, Prince Charles confessed to the pope that it was “difficult to know what to give your Holiness.”

He presented the pope with a gift basket full of produce from the Royal Gardens at Highgrove, their private residence.

“It may come in handy. Somebody else might like it. It’s all homemade things I produce,” Prince Charles told the pope.

“It’s very good,” the duchess added.

For his part, Pope Francis presented Prince Charles with a bronze sculpture of an olive branch in a white box and told him that it was “a symbol of peace.”

“Wherever you go, may you be a man of peace,” he told the prince.

“I’ll do my best,” Prince Charles replied.

Pope Francis also gave the royal couple hardbound copies of two apostolic exhortations, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) and “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). He also gave them a copy of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” his 2015 encyclical on the environment.

“These are works of mine,” Pope Francis said, to which the prince jokingly replied: “Are they in English?”

Laughing, the pope responded, “Yes.”

“You are very generous. A great treat,” Prince Charles said.

After meeting the pope, the royal couple met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. According to the British embassy to the Holy See, “The environment was a theme of the visit, and His Royal Highness joined a round-table discussion with senior Holy See officials on the subject.”

Before meeting the pope, the prince and duchess were given a private tour of the Vatican Secret Archives, where they were welcomed by Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, archivist and librarian of the Vatican Library.

The royal couple were shown original rare documents relating to the once-complicated history between the Catholic Church and Britain.

Among the documents they were shown was the last letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution in 1587 for treason.

They were also shown a letter written in 1555 by Queen Mary I and King Philip II regarding the restoration of the Catholic Church in England.

 

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Wounds of past trials can strengthen the future, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — While the wounds of past trials have healed, the scars that remain will serve as a reminder of strength and courage for future generations, Pope Francis told survivors of an earthquake.

Visiting Carpi and Mirandola April 2, nearly five years after a 5.8-quake rocked the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, the pope said his visit was a sign of “closeness and encouragement” as the people continue to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Carpi, Italy, April 2. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass in Carpi, Italy, April 2. (CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters)

“Looking at these scars, you will have the strength to grow and to make your children grow in that dignity, in that strength, in that spirit of hope, in that courage that you had in the moment you received those wounds,” he said.

The pope spoke to the survivors, who were gathered in the small square outside the Mirandola cathedral, which is still covered in scaffolding and where broken stones are still piled on the ground.

Before addressing the people, he laid a bouquet of yellow and white flowers on the cathedral’s main altar, closing his eyes in prayer then lifting his hand in blessing.

Pope Francis told the people of Mirandola that he wanted to remember the victims, their families and all those “who continue to live in precarious situations.”

“May the Lord let each one of you feel his support,” the pope said. “I wanted to leave on the altar of the cathedral a bouquet of flowers in memory of those who died in the earthquake.”

The pope’s visit to the region began earlier in the day when he arrived by helicopter in the neighboring town of Carpi, which also was devastated by the 2012 earthquake.

Thousands of people, many who had been gathered since dawn, packed the central square as the pope, riding in his popemobile, waved to the excited well-wishers.

Celebrating Mass in the square, the pope said the Sunday Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was a reminder of the “God of life, who conquers death.”

The pope noted that even Jesus, who prays and weeps at the tomb, shares in the sufferings of those who mourn when “everything seems finished.”

“This is the heart of God: far from evil, yet close to those who suffer. He doesn’t make evil magically disappear but shares in the suffering, he makes it his own and transforms it.”

However, the pope continued, Jesus does not let himself be led by the sadness of his friend’s death nor allow himself to “be captured by the emotional, resigned environment surrounding him.” Instead, he prays with confidence to God.

“Thus, in the mystery of suffering, before which thought and progress crash like flies on a window, Jesus offers us the example of how to act,” he said. “He does not escape the suffering that pertains to this life, instead he doesn’t let himself be imprisoned by pessimism.”

The image of Jesus standing in front of the tomb, the pope said, represents a “great encounter-conflict” in that one side represents the despair brought on by human mortality and the other side represents the hope given by Christ who is victorious over death.

Christians, he added, are called to decide in their own lives which side they want to be on.

“You can be either on the side of the tomb or the side of Jesus. There are those who let themselves be closed in sadness and those who are open to hope. There are those who remain trapped under the wreckage of life and those, like you, who with the help of God raise the wreckage and build with patient hope,” the pope said.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis encouraged the people of Carpi to not fall into the temptation of remaining alone, disheartened and in mourning like those who gave up hope after Lazarus’ death.

“This is the atmosphere of the tomb,” the pope said. “The Lord wants to open the path of life, that of the encounter with him, of trusting in him, of the resurrection of the heart, the path of ‘Get up! Get up! Come forth!’ This is what the Lord asks of us and he is close to us so we can do it.”

 

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Vatican’s child protection panel seeks new ways to be informed by abuse survivors

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor, a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors.

Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor from Ireland, resigned from her membership in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing an uncooperative Vatican office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor from Ireland, resigned from her membership in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing an uncooperative Vatican office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a “central topic” of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it “expressed strong support for her continuing work” to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention.

“Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father,” the commission said in a March 26 statement published by the Vatican.

Among the main concerns addressed by the commission was outreach out to victims, an issue first raised by Collins shortly after she resigned from her position.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to respond to letters from victims, it also refused to cooperate on the commission’s safeguarding guidelines.

In its statement, the commission emphasized Pope Francis’ letter to the presidents of the bishops’ conferences and superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in which he called for their close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse,” the pope wrote Feb. 2, 2015.

Commission members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “guidelines template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the commission website, the statement said.

 

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