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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 105, December 2007

 

 

III Asian Congress on the Pastoral Care of Pilgrimages and Shrines 

 

Final Document 

I.  The Event

Pilgrimages and Shrines, Places of Hope.  With this central theme, the Third Asian Congress on the Pastoral Care of Pilgrimages and Shrines took place.  The Congress was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in collaboration with the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility of the Bishops’ Conference of Japan and the Archdiocese of Nagasaki.  Bishops, Directors of pilgrimages and Rectors of Shrines were present from the following countries: Australia, Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.  The three days of meeting, from October 15-17, 2007, were held in Nagasaki (Japan), the city that has a Shrine dedicated to the 26 Martyrs crucified for their faith in 1597.

In an era overwhelmed by divisions, acts of violence and natural calamities, pilgrimages and shrines are places of hope which comes from the encounter with God. This commitment supports the communities by strengthening them in their faith and renewing them in their lifestyle through conversion, reconciliation and prayer, and it encourages them to give witness to the Gospel to evangelize and be united. Concretely, the pilgrimages and shrines are a lighthouse that proclaims and testify the Gospel also with attention to the ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural dialogue. To carry out this task better, the Congress was a laboratory for active and creative participation and a space for listening, deepening and dialogue in order to grow in hope.

The inaugural session opened with the greeting and welcome of His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio in Japan, Most Rev. Alberto Bottari de Castello, followed by the Vice-President of the Japanese Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Osaka, H. E. Most Rev. Leo Jun Ikenaga, who noted that more and more people have the possibility to make pilgrimages abroad. They experience God, the Saints and the local Church and get encouragement for their faith.  At the same time, in welcoming the pilgrims, in turn those in charge of the shrines grow in their faith.  Subsequently, H.E. Most Rev. Marcellino Taiji Tani, the President of the Commission for the Pastoral Care of Human Mobility and Bishop of Saitama, recalled Pope John Paul II’s words during his visit to Hiroshima in 1981 when he said that “to remember the past is to be committed to the future”. He stressed that Japan, which lived through a unique experience of the suffering caused by the atomic bombs, is the ideal place to pray for peaceful coexistence among peoples.  Next, it was the Governor of the Prefecture of Nagasaki’s turn, Mr. Genjiro Kaneko, who briefly illustrated the history and culture of the city where Christianity flourished with the arrival in 1550 of the first missionary, Saint Francis Xavier. The Governor then asked the Congress participants to support the request formulated by his Prefecture, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Nagasaki, to include the “Christian Sites in Nagasaki” on UNESCO’s list of the places that are part of humanity’s world heritage (World Heritage Fund).

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council that organized the event, introduced the work of the Congress.  First, he took a look at the two previous meetings, in Manila (2003) and Seoul (2005), and then developed the theme of this Congress.  He observed that pilgrims go to the shrines moved by hope, a prerogative of human beings, which even astonishes God, in Péguy’s view.  But hope should not be erroneously identified there, in a limited way with human material needs and desires that require immediate answers. On a pilgrimage, one goes to encounter God, the plenitude of all hope.  On this way to the Absolute, the role of pastoral agents is important in order to support and guide the faithful so that prayer and the necessary “recollection” will not be absent. Later, in speaking about shrines, Archbishop Marchetto said that they can be considered “intermediate stations” on our earthly itinerary, places where we get a new impetus and vigor on the way to the Kingdom in fullness promised by God. In the shrines, all the pilgrims, including the pastoral workers that go along with them, are encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Penance in order to get reconciled with God and themselves, and to open up to others in charity. Therefore, on a pilgrimage and at a shrine, the faithful have to look beyond what corresponds to their material needs in order to understand what the real good is that must be sought. The first good is life, both material and spiritual, which is a gift of God and as such must be appreciated and loved. Anyone who does not love life cannot have charity for his neighbor and so he cannot do good. In moments of anguish and despair, the importance of this gift can be forgotten, but the presence of pastoral agents, with their call to faith and hope, can foster the ability to have patience and the humility to accept God’s mystery by trusting in Him, even in the darkness. Archbishop Marchetto concluded his intervention with an appeal to the participants to organize pilgrimages to the shrines of the Asian countries as well in order to help one another and show solidarity among members of the family of Christ, which is still numerically small on this continent.

Afterwards, suggestions and reflections were sent about pilgrimages and shrines from H.E. Most Rev. Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato (Philippines), Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).  He organized his intervention around the fact that in a continent like Asia, where people are generally endowed with a profound sense of the sacred and the spiritual, it is surprising to see so few inter-Asian pilgrimages to the various shrines.  In fact, based on his experience limited to the Philippines, he noted that many pilgrimages organized by travel agencies in collaboration with religious groups are headed to the shrines of Europe and the Holy Land. However, these pilgrimages are well beyond the possibilities and dreams of people with average financial means because of the travel costs, which would surely be less if they traveled in Asia. He also noted that the visit by Muslims to the continent’s shrines could be an occasion for dialogue on subjects such as prayer, human and spiritual needs, peace and harmony. A visit of this kind can also be seen as a sign of the human family’s common pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God in fullness, a theme that is very present in the Asian Bishops’ thought.

Msgr. John Murphy, the Director in Australia of the Catholic Office for Migrants and Refugees, spoke about preparation for the 23rd World Youth Day that will take place in Sydney from July 15-20, 2008.  Its theme will be, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses ” (Acts 1:8).  World Youth Day (WYD) is the largest international youth gathering, which Pope John Paul II convened for the first time in 1986. It represents an opportunity for young people between the ages of 16 and 35 from all over the world to make a pilgrimage of faith and, for the Church in the host country to be renewed. The Australians are busily preparing to host this meeting next year in the month of July. Half a million people from Australia and the other continents are expected and an exciting week of formation and faith celebrations has been planned.

After greeting and welcoming the participants to his Archdiocese, the Most Rev. Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, PSS, Archbishop of Nagasaki, gave a learned report on the themeLively is the courage of those who fear the Lord, for they put their hope in their savior” (Sir 34:13), which was a source of inspiration and reflection for the participants. He began by saying that in every country there are many places where people go to put their confidence in dreams, divinations and omens, but true hope is found first and foremost in the “Fear of the Lord” with its accompanying blessings of divine assistance and protection. Then he shared with the Congress participants “the hope according to Scripture” and divided this into five specific areas. In the first, “the messianic hope”, Archbishop Takami recalled how the hope of the Hebrew people developed, beginning with Abraham and the Patriarchs, and arrived subsequently at the prototype incarnated by King David. This developed into the “Servant of Yahweh” and the “Son of Man”. At the same time, there was a passage from a rather collective hope to an emphasis on individual liberation. The second area concerned the way in which “the Hebrew hope transformed into Christian hope”, as a continuation of the same hope in which the Hebrew people confided. The promise made to Abraham is now fulfilled completely in Christ. The Archbishop then presented a third point: the “object of Christian hope”, now turned towards Christ.  Saint Paul is the theologian par excellence of the virtue of hope, and his perspective clarifies the whole Gospel, even though Saint John, in his First Letter, also takes up eschatological themes when he says: “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2).  Therefore, before emphasizing what distinguishes the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and their relation, he presented the place of the “Christian hope in Christian life”.  Archbishop Takami also recalled that hope will one day disappear when all is revealed, and that in the meantime we must also engender the virtue of patience, enduring the present time, with our sights on future glory. Lastly, “the hope of the pilgrimage” was considered, which has a prototype in the Hebrew pilgrimages to the Jerusalem temple out of which developed an understanding of the great eschatological pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem. In her attachment to history, the Church continues to make her own pilgrimages to the various shrines to show communion in faith and prayer and, above all, to remind all her people about this greater voyage of hope to the Lord, the Savior of the universe.  Above all, it is hope that animates the Christian soul to “run in the race”; it is the spirit of determination to live according to Christ, and to endure life’s trials.

Rev. Javier Gonzalez, OP, Dean of the Department of Canon Law, Ecclesiastical Faculties of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila (Philippines), made an intervention on the subject “‘Your faith and hope are in God’ (1 Pt 1:21), a theological approach to hope and salvation”.  Today, when we look at our world marked by divisions, wars, violence and injustices, and threatened by a destructive “culture of death”, we need to set our hope, our trust in God.  By doing so, we are not merely hoping for some improvement or change in a vague and uncertain future and tied up with some desired result, but something that happens right now: We align ourselves with God’s purposes, God’s values and God’s ethics. We tie ourselves to God’s community.  On the most profound level, we “let” God be God, believing and trusting that He, in his infinite wisdom and power, will solve our problems.

The fact that we have our faith and hope set in God allows us to find meaning, courage and even joy when we are confronted with things that we cannot fix. This has at least two immediate implications: namely, a living faith in “the God of hope” as its source and foundation, and the actual enjoyment of a victorious joy and peace, as its immediate fruit.  Having our faith and hope set in God also makes us look at our world with theological optimism; to deal with mankind with respect and compassion; to keep our faith purified and to rekindle hope in our midst. Applying all of this to the life and ministry of shrine Rectors raises some specific challenges, such as to preach the Word of God in a credible way, to encourage liturgical life, to promote participation in the ecclesial community, to foster approved forms of popular devotion, to hold ecumenical dialogue and to be prophets of the heavenly homeland.

Rev. Leszek Niewdana, SVD, Professor of the Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei (Taiwan) took up the theme, “’Hope does not disappoint us’ (Rm 5:5), because of the Word of God, Liturgy and Diakonia. A pastoral, spiritual and sociological approach to hope”.  He observed that over the past 25 years or so, neoliberalism has become a powerful ideology that has been embraced by an increasing number of governments.  It is based on the free market model and the concept of competition in all areas. Despite its positive outcomes, such as the creation of an unprecedented wealth, reduction of poverty, particularly in Asia, further expansion of individual freedom and utilization of human creativity, the neoliberal project has also had negative influences on societies at large: for example, in the form of stagnation of lower and middle wages (with relative impoverishment), a rapidly growing income gap, job uncertainty, economic migration, etc. This has brought into the lives of millions of individuals more insecurity, instability and a sense of being uprooted or marginalized.

Father Niewdana tried to present both positive as well as negative outcomes of the neoliberal model as the potential sources of “fundamentalization” of hope, or reduction of hope to a single, oversimplified metaphor, which ultimately may lead many to disappointment in their search for meaning and the value of life.  For Christians, hope that does not disappoint is the one which is being realized in the midst of one’s hectic historical existence, but which at the same time is constantly geared towards the happiness of eternal life. As such, Christian hope is a spiritual force anchored in the ultimate expectations with regard to one’s existence which, at the same time, acts as a support in one’s present condition.  What sustains such hope is the Word of God, liturgy and Diakonia, which strengthen one’s sense of stability, rootedness and relatedness, and have the potential to form “a spiral of hope” in which showing concern for others can inspire both the lives of others and one’s own.

The participants met twice in study groups, and their reflections, together with the suggestions that emerged during the Congress, made up the basis needed to draw up the conclusions and recommendations of this final document.

The third and last day opened with the reading of the Holy Father’s telegram, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in which the Pontiff reassured the participants of his spiritual nearness in prayer.  It states that “the pilgrimage has been a faith practice since the dawn of Christianity. By manifesting the Church’s true nature, pilgrims give witness to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life, and in this way reveal to society the hope that does not disappoint (cf. Rm 5:5).  The Shrines associated with great saints or significant events in the history of salvation are hospitable havens of peace and harmony that allow everyone to draw in depth from the spiritual sources of serenity, truth and love”. The Holy Father, with his encouragement for all, entrusted the participants to the intercession of the Asian Martyrs and imparted his Apostolic Blessing.

Three reports followed.

Rev. Msgr. Peter Cañonero, President of the Association of Shrine Rectors and Promoters of Pilgrimages in the Philippines (ASRP), spoke both about the beginning of the Association for the whole of Asia and its future desirable development. He began by recalling both its origin in 2003 on the occasion of the First Asian Meeting in Manila on the theme The Shrine: place of hospitality and encounter, and Pope John Paul II’s desire to strengthen the bonds of collaboration between the various Churches of Asia. The positive outcome of that meeting and the subsequent one in Seoul on the theme Pilgrimages and Shrines, gifts of God-love in Asia today, led to addressing the important question of the Association’s future. Msgr. Cañonero reminded everyone that each shrine offers a unique “charisma”, catering to different groups of pilgrims, who want clearly to find “something” they are looking for.  He stated that if the Asian Association was to continue, it must seek to preserve the uniqueness of each shrine and the respective spontaneity that springs from each one. He also expressed the wish that the Association would serve as a guide for those shrines that seek assistance, rather than implementing restrictive rules. He concluded by urging each and every shrine to be a place of encounter with the Lord and to work with the local Ordinaries to see that this will become a reality.

Rev. Fr. Renzo de Luca, SJ, Rector of 26 Martyrs Shrine in Nagasaki, gave some updates from his last report on the pilgrimage experience at that shrine and the hill of the Martyrs.  He explained how the Gospel is proclaimed in the shrine, first of all through the Holy Masses celebrated on Sunday and weekdays. Of particular importance for evangelization is marriage preparation. In fact, with permission from the Episcopal Conference, marriages can be “blessed” in church between unbaptized people. This allows for a prolonged period both of catechesis pre and post marriage. He then spoke about the particular ministry of preaching and teaching to those who come expressly as pilgrims, many of whom are Korean. Lastly, in this category he spoke about “ecumenical” dialogue, which puts particular stress on catechizing and cooperating with the Kakure Kirishitan, the so-called Hidden Christians, who have chosen to follow tradition and the way of praying from the period of persecutions in Japan. In the second part of his intervention, Father de Luca spoke about the changes that have taken place in the “mixed proclamation”.  These were in the areas of religious school field trips and guided tours, interreligious dialogue and healing-space seekers. The “indirect proclamation” has also seen changes in the numbers who come to the church for historical and technical research. Cultural exchanges had some development, though there was a concern about the expectations of those who were looking solely for the exotic or the mysterious. The speaker continued by pointing out the need to avoid ambiguity between the fields of research and proclamation which could lead to errors. Lastly he concluded by saying that the greatest challenge for the shrine was to try to have an influence on the materialistic society.

Rev. Fr. Xavier Packiasami, Rector of the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Health of Vailankanni (India), presented the history and pastoral work of this place of pilgrimage. According to tradition, Our Lady appeared to two young, non-Catholic boys in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, both involving miracles and cures. The Shrine, which is called “The Lourdes of the East”, was elevated to a minor basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII. In 2002, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health held its Tenth World Day there.  In his Message, Pope John Paul II recalled that “the Mother of Good Health is truly a meeting point for members of different religions and an outstanding example of interreligious harmony and exchange”. It is this that makes Vailankanni unique. India is a land of many cultures, many languages and many religions, and the shrine has become a “home of love” attracting people beyond caste, creed and nationality. The shrine maintains a continuous round of Holy Masses and devotions serving the steady stream of visitors who come to seek Our Lady’s intercession. The countless cures make this a truly powerful shrine. Besides the shrine, there is a center for retreats, one for meetings, a home for the aged, and also a home for orphans.

The Liturgies during the Congress took place with a good participation of the city’s faithful.  The first, in the Urakami Cathedral, was presided by the Most Rev. Agostino Marchetto; at the second, in the Shrine of the 26 Martyrs, H.E. Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami, PSS, presided, and the third, in the Church of Oura, was led by the Most Rev. Joshua Mar Ignathios of India. All three of these churches are among the “Christian Sites in Nagasaki” which - it is hoped - will become part of humanity’s world heritage. To support this petition, presented jointly by the Prefecture and the Archdiocese of Nagasaki, the Congress participants signed a letter addressed to the Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 

At the end of the Congress, the participants approved the following conclusions and recommendations. 

II.  Conclusions

1) Many people visiting Nagasaki are pained by the images of the destruction caused by the Atomic Bomb in the city. The rebuilt Cathedral of Urakami and the prosperity of the city are signs of the Hope of a people who made that reconstruction possible.

2) Applying this to our present reality, we believe that many spiritually broken people come to visit our Shrines. They look for compassion, understanding and healing. One of the dominant forces of healing lies in their hope: hope in God, in the Church and in humanity. We who are responsible for the Pastoral Care of Pilgrimages and Shrines have received a mission from God to help them to know Him, the real and only Healer.

3) The pilgrimage, a practice in most religions in the world and a custom existing even before the Bible, is a journey made by believers to a place consecrated by some manifestation of the Divine or by the deeds of some great religious figure, in order to pray there. It is a quest for God and an encounter with Him in the context of worship.

4) The Gospel tells us that Jesus, already from childhood, used to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the various feasts. Jesus has declared that his death and resurrection made his glorified body the new temple, the true centre of worship for his followers, and no longer any place on earth (Jn 2:19-21; 4:21-23). From that moment onward, the life of the new people of God, the Church, is on the real eschatological pilgrimage (2 Cor 5:6-10; He 13:14), which is also the new Exodus (Ac 3:15; 5:31; 1 Cor 5:7; He 9:11-12); its goal is the heavenly homeland (He 11:16) whose “temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22). However, the Church is attached to history and continues to make pilgrimages to various shrines in order to show her fellowship in faith and prayer, and above all to remind us that she is on a journey towards the Lord, the Savior of the whole world, under his leadership. This is why Christians have hope in Him, who never deceives, but redeems them for ever.

5) The hope that accompanies the whole of our lives is the spirit of our determination to live in accordance with Christ’s teaching and to endure all trials. This is perfectly assured, being founded on the promise of God and on the redeeming cross, having as pledge the resurrection of Christ, as our first fruit (1 Cor 15:12-33). It is love with faith which arouses and animates that hope.

6) Shrines are places of God’s presence: the mystery of the shrine does not only call to mind our origin in the Lord; it also reminds us that once God has loved us, He never ceases to love us. In the specific moment of history in which we find ourselves today, faced with all the contradictions and the sufferings of the present, He is with us. Thus, shrines evoke God’s living presence among us and for us; they are places where God’s fidelity reaches out and transforms us. In these places, the Spirit acts especially through the signs of the new covenant that shrines possess and make available.

7) This essential significance of shrines in the life of the Church, aptly translated into pastoral terms, is summed up in canon 1234, the last of the five canons that the Code of Canon Law devoted to the “Shrines”. The canon states in §1 that “at shrines the means of salvation are to be more abundantly made available to the faithful”; then it lists the principal means by which this may be done: namely, “by the diligent proclamation of the word of God, the suitable promotion of liturgical life especially through the celebration of the Eucharist and of penance, and the cultivation of approved forms of popular piety”. The participants fully accept the spirit and the letter of this canon. In fact, this text, read within the context of our reflection on faith and hope set in God, advances important challenges for Shrine Rectors, challenges which should become for them some of the priorities or main concerns in the fulfillment of their pastoral ministry. Challenges, together with ecumenical concern and other ministries sprouting from shrines' prophetic meaning, constitute privileged ways to rekindle hope in the world.

8) The participants also concluded that Ecumenism, in the broad sense of the word, is the final goal of mankind’s journey, a goal that cannot be realized without dialogue. The vision of the Catholic Church in Asia is precisely that of the “Church-In-Dialogue”, as the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) put it: “We are committed to bring Jesus’ message to all nations of Asia. Our contribution lies in the witnessing to our faith and facilitating a dialogue of Faith and Life, Gospel and Culture, Church and Society”. It is a movement toward dialogue with other religions, cultures and civilizations so deeply needed today in many parts of the world.

9) Pilgrimages and Shrines are privileged opportunities and places of peace and reconciliation, even not in fullness of communion, where not only the Catholic faithful gather, but also believers of other religions too. Using Pope Benedict XVI’s recent words, “they become meeting spaces for unity while respecting legitimate diversity”.

10) Finally, we reaffirm that pilgrimages can be occasions to know one another better, to give impetus to the places of worship and to make communion and solidarity grow among the communities that form the one Church. This support between members of the family of Christ in Asia must everywhere serve the cause of evangelization and human promotion. 

iii.  Recommendations

1) Shrines should be places of prayer and total renewal providing constant opportunities for the sacrament of Reconciliation, including counseling to guide people to genuine conversion and reconciliation, which lead to psychological and spiritual healing. It should also include family renewal programs, especially reconciliation among family members, and meaningful celebrations of the Eucharist with inspiring and invigorating preaching of the Word of God.

2) Catechesis for our Christian pilgrims has to be kerygmatic and able to lead people to God, Our Father. It should be imparted especially to small groups of families, youth, children and migrants. Some kind of presentation of the Christian faith may also be introduced for non-Christian visitors.

3) Pastoral care should be given to pilgrims to deepen their faith and awareness of the Mystery of God, of the Divine, a faith-understanding of the history of the shrine, instructions, homilies, media presentations, etc.

4) Pilgrimages and Shrines should be places of charity, accessible to ordinary people. They should have a special concern for the poor, providing social services and facilities for pilgrims to rest and be refreshed. Charity can also be expressed by welcoming, listening and understanding pilgrims.

5) Pilgrimages and Shrines are called to be opportunities and places of justice, peace and integrity of creation. They should be places where violence, injustice, the culture of death and destruction, both to humanity and the environment, are denounced. They should also provide occasions for proper catechesis against discrimination and the unnecessary use of force.

6) Pilgrimages and Shrines should be occasions and places of self-purification and transformation rather than centers providing “spiritual commercialism”. Pilgrims should be encouraged to purify their faith, to remove the human temptation of “using” pilgrimages and shrines just to ask for “little favors” from God. In the shrine, it is essential to seek above all the “Grace” of the Lord, and not so much graces with a small “g” or favors.

7) Pastoral care should ensure that shrines' religious and prayerful environment should not be overshadowed by material and commercial concerns. Emphasis should be put on pilgrimages as spiritual journeys rather than sightseeing tours.

8) Special care should be given to avoid the influence of Pentecostalism when it is ‘a religion of excitement and emotion' and makes people turn to non-structured forms of religiosity.

9) Shrine Rectors should be responsible and transparent in using people’s offerings for charitable projects, programs and worthy causes, in accordance with the donors’ intentions and the disposition of the ecclesial authority.

10) National associations of pilgrimages and shrines should be established, akin to the existing Filipino experience, aiming at a mature Asian Association of Pilgrimages and Shrines. A particular link already exists among Shrines dedicated to Martyrs that are common in several countries.  In addition, a network should also be created with a list of Asian shrines and significant pilgrimage spots.

11) Pilgrimage Directors and Shrine Rectors, while being attentive to the importance of the ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and aware of the complexity of the issues involved, should assume the role of promoting ecumenical and inter-religious occasions for meetings and discussions. Likewise, pastoral care should provide faith-formation and promote harmonious inter-religious relationships in the Asian context, following the guidelines of the Church in these matters.

12) Directors of Pilgrimages and Rectors of Shrines should encourage people to participate in the coming XXIII World Youth Day (Sydney, 15-20 July 2008), since it creates an atmosphere to rediscover the importance of faith in young people’s lives. Even if physical participation will be difficult, we should nevertheless pray for the spiritual success of the gathering and for continuity in the young people’s efforts to follow Jesus Christ after the event.

In these days of communion, reflection and prayer, the participants have felt the presence and aid of the Martyrs of Nagasaki. They offered their lives so that everyone here could believe in the love of the Father, in the saving mission of the Son, and in the infallible guide of the Holy Spirit. May Our Lady, the Martyrs and all the saints of this continent continue always to enlighten the paths of the Church in Asia.

 

 

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