Benedict XVI's visit to Viterbo and Bagnoreggio                               
                                     
September 2009

 

Papal Address at Bonaventure's Birthplace

"The Universe Itself Can Again Be the Voice That Speaks of God"

BAGNOREGGIO, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday at Bagnoreggio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

This morning's solemn Eucharistic celebration in Viterbo opened my pastoral visit to your diocesan community, and this meeting here in Bagnoreggio practically closes it. I greet you all with affection: religious, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious, pastoral agents, young people and families, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I renew my gratitude first of all to your bishop for his affectionate words, which referred to my link with St. Bonaventure. And I respectfully greet the mayor of Bagnoreggio, grateful for the courteous welcome he gave me in the name of the whole city.

Giovanni Fidanza, who later became Friar Bonaventure, joins his name to that of Bagnoreggio in the well-known presentation that he makes of himself in the Divine Comedy. On saying: "I am the soul of Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio, who in exalted tasks put to one side erroneous endeavors" (Dante, Paradise XII, 127-129), which underscores how, in the important tasks that he had to undertake in the Church, he always postponed attention to temporal realities -- "erroneous endeavors" -- in favor of the spiritual good of souls. Here, in Bagnoreggio, he spent his childhood and adolescence; then he followed St. Francis, for whom he manifested special gratitude because, as he wrote, when he was a child he "snatched him from the jaws of death" (Legenda Maior, Prologus, 3,3) and predicted "bona venture," as your mayor recalled recently. He was able to establish a profound and lasting bond with the poor man of Assisi, drawing from him ascetic inspiration and ecclesial genius. You jealously guard the famous relic of the "holy arm" of this illustrious fellow-citizen, keep alive his memory and reflect deeply on his doctrine, especially through the Center of Bonaventure Studies, founded by Bonaventure Tecchi, which every year promotes special study conferences dedicated to him.

It is not easy to summarize the extensive philosophical, theological and mystical doctrine that St. Bonaventure left us. In this Year for Priests, I would like to invite priests especially to listen to this great doctor of the Church and to reflect more profoundly on his teaching of wisdom rooted in Christ. He directs every step of his speculation and mystical tension to wisdom that flowers in holiness, passing through the degrees that range from what he calls "uniform wisdom," which concerns the essential principles of knowledge, to "multiform wisdom," which consists of the mysterious language of the Bible, and then to "omni-form wisdom," which recognizes in the whole of created reality the reflection of the Creator, to "informed wisdom," that is, the experience of profound mystical contact with God, wherewith man's intellect knows the infinite Mystery in silence (cf. J. Ratzinger, St. Bonaventure and the Theology of History, Porziuncola publishers, 2006, pp. 92ff). On remembering this profound researcher and lover of wisdom, I would also like to express my encouragement and appreciation for the service that theologians are called to give, in the ecclesial community, of that faith that seeks understanding, that faith which is a "friend of intelligence" and which becomes a new life according to God's plan.

From St. Bonaventure's rich cultural and mystical patrimony I limit myself, this afternoon, to consider a "path" of reflection that might be useful for your diocesan community's pastoral journey. He was, in the first place, a tireless seeker of God, from the time of his studies in Paris until his death. He indicates in his writings the path to be followed. "Given that God is on High," he wrote, "the mind must ascend to him with all its strength" (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, No. 25).

In this way, he traces a committed path of faith, in which it is not enough "to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to do research without admiration, to be circumspect without joy, to be expert without piety, to know without charity, to be intelligent without humility, to study without divine grace, to speak without wisdom inspired by God" (Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Prologue 4). This journey of purification involves the whole person striving, through Christ, to the transforming love of the Trinity. And, given that Christ, forever God and man forever, effects in the faithful a new creation with his grace, the exploration of the divine presence becomes contemplation of him in the soul "where he dwells with the gifts of his uncontainable love" (ibid. IV, 4), to be finally transported in him. Hence, faith is the perfection of our cognitive capacities and participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of the world; we experience hope as preparation for our encounter with the Lord, who will constitute the fulfillment of that friendship that already unites us to him. And charity introduces us to divine life, making us see all people as brothers, according to the will of our common heavenly Father.

In addition to being a seeker of God, St. Bonaventure was a seraphic singer of creation who, following St. Francis, learned to "praise God in all and through all creatures," in which "shines the omnipotence, wisdom and goodness of the Creator" (ibid. I, 10). St. Bonaventure presents a positive vision of the world, gift of God's love to men: He recognizes in it the reflection of the highest Goodness and Beauty that, following St. Augustine and St. Francis, assures us that it is God himself. God has given it all to us. From him, as original source, flow truth, goodness and beauty. To God, as on the steps of a stairway, one ascends until arriving and almost attaining the highest Good and in him we find our joy and peace. How useful it would be if also today we rediscovered the beauty and value of creation in the light of divine goodness and beauty! In Christ, observed St. Bonaventure, the universe itself can again be the voice that speaks of God and leads us to explore his presence; exhorts us to honor and glorify him in everything (Cf. Ibid. I, 15). Herein we perceive the spirit of St. Francis, with whom our saint shared love for all creatures.

St. Bonaventure was a messenger of hope. We find a beautiful image of hope in one of his Advent homilies, where he compares the movement of hope to the flight of a bird, which spreads its wings as far as possible, and employs all its energies to move them. In a certain sense, it make its whole being a movement to rise and fly. To hope is to fly, says St. Bonaventure. But hope exacts movement from all our members and our projection to the authentic stature of our being, to God's promises. He who hopes, he affirms, "must lift his head, directing his thoughts on high, to the height of our existence, that is, to God" (Sermo XVI, Dominica I Adv., Opera Omnia, IX, 40a).

In his address, the Lord Mayor posed a question: "What will Bagnoreggio be tomorrow?" In truth, we all wonder about our future and that of the world, and this question has much to do with hope, for which every human heart is thirsty. In the encyclical "Spe Salvi," I wrote that not just any hope is sufficient to address and overcome the difficulties of the present: a "certain hope" is indispensable which, giving us the certainty of attaining a "great" goal," justifies the effort of the journey" (cf. No. 1). Only this "great hope-certainty" assures us that, despite the failures of our personal life and the contradictions of history as a whole, we are always protected by the "indestructible power of Love."

When we are sustained by such hope we never run the risk of losing the courage to contribute, as the saints did, to the salvation of humanity, and "we can open ourselves and open the world so that God will enter, God, who is truth, love and goodness" (cf. No. 35). May St. Bonaventure help us to "spread the wings" of hope, which drives us to be, as he was, incessant seekers of God, singers of the beauties of creation and witnesses of that Love and Beauty that "moves everything."

Thank you, dear friends, once again, for your hospitality. While I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I impart to you, through the intercession of St. Bonaventure and especially of Mary, faithful Virgin and Star of Hope, a special apostolic blessing, which I extend with pleasure to all the inhabitants of this beautiful land, rich in saints.

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On Viterbo, the "City of Popes"

"Confirm Your Brothers"

VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus in Viterbo, where he spent the day in a pastoral visit.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic Celebration, I once again thank the Lord for having giving me the joy to pay this pastoral visit to your diocesan community. I have come among you to encourage you and confirm you in fidelity to Christ, as the theme that you have chosen indicates: "Confirm your brothers" (Luke 22:31). These words of Jesus were directed to the Apostle Peter during the Last Supper, entrusting to him the task of being the pastor of his entire Church here on earth.

For many centuries your diocese has distinguished itself by a singular bond of affection and communion with the Successor of Peter. I was able to experience this visiting the Palazzo dei Papi (Palace of Popes) and, in particular, the hall of the "Conclave." St. Leo the Great, who performed a great service to truth in charity through an assiduous exercise of the word, as his sermons and letters bear witness, was born in the vast territory of ancient Tuscia. Pope Sabinian, successor of Gregory the Great, was born in Blera; Paul III was born in Canino. Viterbo was chosen for the whole second half of the 12th century as the residence of the Roman Pontiffs: Five of my predecessors were elected here, and four of them are interred here; more than 50 have visited -- the last was the Servant of God John Paul II, 25 years ago. These figures have a historical significance, but I would like to stress their spiritual value above all at this moment. Viterbo has been justly named "City of Popes," and for you this constitutes a further stimulus to live and witness to the Christian faith, the same faith that the holy martyrs Valentino and Ilario -- who rest in the cathedral -- gave their lives for. They are the first of a long line of saints, martyrs and blesseds from your land.

"Confirm your brothers:" Today I felt this invitation of the Lord addressed to me with a singular intensity. Pray, dear Brothers and Sisters, that I might be able to carry out the mission of the pastors of the entire flock of Christ with ever greater fidelity and love (cf. John 21:15 ff.). For my part I assure you of a constant remembrance in the Lord for your diocesan community, so that its different articulations -- whose symbolic representation I was able to admire in the cathedral's new bronze doors -- will tend more and more to a complete unity and fraternal communion, indispensable conditions for offering the world an efficacious evangelical testimony. I will entrust these intentions this afternoon to the Virgin Mary in my visit to the shrine of the Madonna della Quercia (the Madonna of the Oak). Now, with the prayer that recalls her "yes" to the angel's announcement, let us ask her always to keep our faith strong and joyful.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said in Italian:]

I would now like to address a cordial greeting to the participants in the International Congress "Men and Religions," which is convening in Krakow on the theme: "Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue." Numerous figures and representatives of the various religions -- invited by the Archdiocese of Krakow and the Community of Sant'Egidio -- are gathered to reflect and pray for peace, 70 years after the outbreak of World War II. We cannot fail to recall the dramatic events that brought on one of the most terrible conflicts in history, that caused tens of millions of deaths and provoked so much suffering among the beloved Polish people; a conflict that saw the tragedy of the Holocaust and the extermination of many other innocent people. May the memory of these events move us to pray for the victims and for those who still carry wounds in their bodies and hearts; may it also be an admonishment to all not to repeat such barbarities and to intensify the efforts to create in our time, marked by conflicts and oppositions, an enduring peace, transmitting above all to the new generations, a culture and a lifestyle shaped by love, solidarity and esteem for the other. In this perspective, what is especially important is the contributions that religions can and must make in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation against violence, racism, totalitarianism and the extremism that disfigure the image of the Creator in man, erase God from the horizon and, consequently, lead to the scorn of man himself. May the Lord help you to build peace beginning from love and from mutual understanding (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," no. 72).

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Pontiff's Prayer at Madonna della Quercia Shrine

"Keep Firm the Unity of Our Families"

VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today to the cloistered nuns who gathered at the shrine of the Madonna della Quercia (the Madonna of the Oak) in Viterbo, and the text of a prayer he offered during his pastoral visit to that city.

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Dear Sisters!

It is truly a joy for me to meet you in this dear place of popular devotion. You, as contemplative nuns, have a mission to be torches in the Church who, in the silence of your monasteries, burn in prayer and love for God. I entrust my intentions to you, the intentions of the pastor of this diocese and the needs of those who live in this land. In this Year for Priests, I entrust to you above all priests, seminarians and vocations. With your prayerful silence be their support "at a distance" and exercise your spiritual maternity toward them, offering to the Lord the sacrifice of your life for their sanctification and for the good of souls. I thank you for your presence and bless you from my heart; carry also to your sisters, who were not able to come, the greeting and the benediction of the Pope. I ask you now to join with me in invoking the maternal protection of Mary for this diocesan community and the inhabitants of this land rich with religious and cultural traditions.

Holy Virgin, Madonna della Quercia

Patroness of the Diocese of Viterbo,

gathered in this sanctuary consecrated to you,

we address a suppliant and confident prayer to you:

watch over the successor of Peter and the Church entrusted to his care;

watch over this diocesan community and her pastors,

over Italy, over Europe and the other continents.

Queen of peace, obtain the gift of concord and peace

for the nations and for the whole of humanity.

Obedient Virgin, Mother of Christ,

Who, with your docile "yes" to the Angel's announcement,

became the Mother of the Almighty,

help everyone of your children to ratify

the designs that the Heavenly Father has for everyone,

to cooperate in the universal plan of redemption,

that Christ accomplished dying on the cross.

Virgin of Nazareth, Queen of the Family,

Make our Christian families forges of evangelical life,

enriched by the gift of many vocations

to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

Keep firm the unity of our families,

which are today threatened from every side,

and make them hearths of serenity and concord,

where patient dialogue dissipates the difficulties and oppositions.

above all watch over those who are divided and in crisis,

Mother of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Church,

Nourish the enthusiasm of the all the members

of our diocese: of the parishes and ecclesial groups,

of the associations and of the new forms of apostolic commitment

that the Lord awakens with his Holy Spirit;

make firm and decided the will of those

the Lord of the harvest continues to call

as workers in his vineyard, so that,

resisting every worldly enticement and snare,

they generously persevere in following the path that they have set out upon,

and, with your maternal succor, become the witnesses of Christ

drawn by the splendor of his Love, source of joy.

Clement Virgin, Mother of Humanity,

Turn your gaze upon the men and women of our time,

upon peoples and those who govern them, upon nations and continents;

console those who weep, who suffer, who struggle because of human injustice,

sustain those who waver under the weight of toil

and look to the future without hope;

encourage those who labor to build a better world

where justice triumphs and brotherhood reigns,

where egoism, hatred and violence cease.

May every form and manifestation of violence

Be defeated by the peaceful power of Christ!

Virgin of Listening, Star of Hope,

Mother of Mercy,

source through whom Jesus came into the world,

our life and our joy,

we thank you and we renew to you the offer of our life,

certain that you will never abandon us,

especially in the dark and difficult moments of existence.

Be with us always: now and at the hour of our death.

Amen!

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Benedict XVI's Homily in Viterbo

"Prayer Is the First Form of Charity"

VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily at a Mass he celebrated while on a pastoral visit to Viterbo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The setting in which we celebrate the Holy Mass today is truly unusual and suggestive: we find ourselves in the valley in view of the ancient city gate of Viterbo called "FAUL;" the letters stand for Fanum, Arbanum, Vetulonia and Longula. On the one side there stands the imposing palace, at one time a residence of the Popes, which in the 13th century -- as your bishop observed -- saw five conclaves; we are surrounded by buildings and spaces, witnesses of many events of the past, and today the fabric of the life of your city and province. In this context, which recalls centuries of civil and religious history, your whole diocesan community is gathered, at least in spirit, with the Successor of Peter to be confirmed by him in fidelity to Christ and his Gospel.

To all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, I offer my grateful thoughts with affection for the warm welcome you reserved for me. First, I greet your pastor, Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli, whom I thank for the words of welcome. I greet the other bishops, especially those from Lazio with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the dear diocesan priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, the young people and children, and I extend my remembrance to all the members of the diocese, whom, in the recent past, I saw gathered in Viterbo together with the Abbey of San Martino al Monte Cimino, and the dioceses of Acquapendente, Bagnoregio, Montefiascone and Tuscania. This new configuration is now artistically sculpted in the bronze doors of the cathedral that, as I began my visit in Piazza San Lorenzo, I was able to bless and admire.

With deference I turn to the civil and military authorities, to the representatives of parliament, the government, the region and province, and in a special way to the mayor, who acted as the bearer of the cordial sentiments of people of Viterbo. I thank the security forces and greet the numerous members of the military who are present in this city, along with those who are engaged in missions of peace in the world. I greet and thank the volunteers and those who helped to make my visit possible. I reserve a very special greeting for the older people and those who live by themselves, the sick, those in prison and those who were not able to take part in this meeting of ours of prayer and friendship.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, every liturgical assembly is the space of the presence of God. Gathered together for the Holy Eucharist, the disciples of the Lord proclaim that he is risen, that he is alive and the giver of life, and they bear witness that his presence is grace, is a task, is joy.

Let us open our hearts to his word and welcome the gift of his presence! In the first reading the prophet Isaiah (35:4-7) encourages "those whose hearts are frightened" and announces this stupendous novelty, that experience confirms: when the Lord is present, the eyes of the blind are reopened, ears of the deaf hear, the lame "leap" like a stag. Everything is reborn and everything revives because wholesome waters spring up in the desert. The "desert," in its symbolic language, can evoke the dramatic events, difficult situations and solitude that often mark life; the most profound desert is the human heart, when it loses the ability to hear, to speak, to communicate with God and with others. One then becomes blind because he is incapable of seeing reality; he closes his ears to not hear the cry of those who implore his help; his heart is hardened in indifference and egotism. But now -- the prophet announces -- all is destined to change; into the "arid land" of this closed heart a new divine blood will flow. And when the Lord comes, he will say to "the frightened of heart" of every age, "Courage, fear not!" (35:4).

The Gospel episode narrated by Mark in which Jesus heals a deaf mute in pagan territory (7:31-37) connects well here. First he encounters and cares for him with the language of deeds, more immediate than that of words; and then with an expression in Aramaic he says to him: "Ephphatha," that is, "Be open," giving that man hearing and speech. Full of wonder, the crowd exclaims: "He has done all things well!" (7:37).

We can see in this "sign" Jesus' ardent desire to conquer in man the solitude and incommunicability created by egotism, to give a face to a "new humanity," a humanity that listens and a humanity of the word, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God. A "good" humanity, as all of God's creation is good; a humanity without discrimination, without exclusions -- as the Apostle James admonishes in his Letter (2:1-5) -- so that the world truly be a "place of genuine brotherhood" ("Gaudium et Spes," 37) for all, in the opening of the common Father who created us and made us his sons and daughters.

Dear Church of Viterbo, may the Christ whom we see in the Gospel open the ears and loosen the tongue of a deaf mute person, reveal your heart and always give you the joy to listen to his Word, the courage to announce his Gospel, the ability to speak with God and thus to speak with your brothers and sisters, and finally, may he give you the courage of the discovery of his face and his beauty! But, so that this might happen -- St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio recalls (I will be traveling to Bagnoregio this afternoon) -- the mind must "go beyond everything through contemplation and go beyond not only the world of the senses, but also beyond itself" ("Itinerarium mentis in Deum" VII,1). This is the itinerary of salvation, illumined by the light of the Word of God and nourished by the sacraments that are common to all Christians.

I would like to take up some spiritual and pastoral points about this road that you too, beloved Church of this land, are called to travel. Education in the faith -- as search, as Christian initiation, as life in Christ -- is a priority that is very close to the heart of your bishop. It is the "becoming Christian" that consists in that "learning Christ" that St. Paul expresses with the formula: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). The parishes, families and various groups are involved in this experience. Catechists and all educators are called to commit themselves; the schools are also called to make their contribution, from the primary schools to the University of Tuscia, which is growing in importance and prestige, and, in particular, the Catholic school, with the Istituto Filosofico-Teologico "San Pietro." There are models that are always relevant, authentic pioneers in education in the faith from which to draw inspiration. I gladly mention, among others, St. Rosa Venerini (1656-1728) -- who I had the joy to canonize three years ago -- a true forerunner of girls' schools in Italy, during the Enlightenment; St. Lucia Filippini (1672-1732) who, with the help of Venerable Cardinal Marco Antonio Barbarigo (1640-1706), founded the worthy "Maestre Pie." One could still happily draw from these spiritual sources to confront, with lucidity and coherence, the current inescapable and pressing "educational emergency," a great challenge for every Christian community and for society as a whole, which is precisely a process of "Ephphatha," of opening the ears, loosening the tongue and opening the eyes.

Along with education, the testimony of the faith. "Faith," St. Paul writes, "works through charity" (Galatians 5:6). The charitable work of the Church takes on a face in this perspective: her initiatives, her works are signs of faith in and love of God, who is Love -- as I amply noted in the encyclicals "Deus Caritas Est" and "Caritas in Veritate." This is where voluntary service flourishes and must always increase, whether at the personal level or the organized level. In charity this voluntary service has its propulsive and educative organism. The young St. Rose (1233-1251), co-patroness of the diocese, whose feast is celebrated during this time, is a radiant example of faith and generosity toward the poor. How can one not also recall that from her monastery St. Giacinta Marescotti (1585-1640) promoted Eucharistic adoration in the city and gave life to institutions and initiatives to benefit prisoners and the marginalized? Nor can we forget the Franciscan witness of the Capuchin St. Crispino (1668-1759), who continues to inspire worthy aid groups. It is significant that in this climate of evangelical fervor many houses of consecrated life were born, for both men and women, and in particular cloistered monasteries, which constitute a visible reminder of the primacy of God in our existence and show us that prayer is the first form of charity.

Emblematic in this regard is the example of the Trappist nun Blessed Gabriella Sagheddu (1914-1939): in the monastery of Vitorchiano, where she is entombed, spiritual ecumenism continues to be proposed, nourished by the incessant prayer, strongly solicited by the Second Vatican Council (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," no. 8). I would also like to mention another citizen of Viterbo, Blessed Domenico Bārberi (1792-1849), the Passionist priest who, in 1845, welcomed John Henry Newman -- who later became a cardinal -- into the Catholic Church. Newman was a high profile intellectual and a man of luminous spirituality.

Finally I would like to touch on a third point, a pastoral one: attention to the signs of God. As Jesus did with the deaf mute person, God continues to reveal his plan to us through "events and words." Listening to his word and discerning his signs must be the work of every Christian community. The most immediate of God's signs is certainly care for one's neighbor, according to what Jesus said: "Everything that you did for these least of my brothers you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Furthermore, as the Second Vatican Council affirms: the Christian is called to "stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a sign of the living God" ("Lumen Gentium," no. 38). The priest, whom Christ has chosen entirely for himself, must first of all be this. During this Year for Priests, pray with greater intensity for priests, for seminarians and for vocations, that they be faithful to this vocation of theirs! He must be the sign of the living God, as every consecrated person and all the baptized must likewise be.

Faithful laypeople, young people, families, do not be afraid to live and bear witness to the faith in the various spheres of society, in the multiple situations of human existence! Viterbo also has a prestigious figures in this respect. On this occasion it is a duty and a joy to remember the young Mario Fani of Viterbo, founder of the "Circolo Santa Rosa" ("Circle of St. Rose"), who then, along with Giovanni Acquaderni, of Bologna, started the Catholic Action movement in Italy. The seasons succeed each other, social contexts change, but the vocation of Christians to live the Gospel in solidarity with the human family does not change or go out of fashion with the passing of time. This is social commitment, this is the service proper to political action, this is integral human development.

Dear brothers and sisters! When the heart is frightened in the desert of life, do not be afraid, give yourselves to Christ, the firstborn of the new humanity: a family of brothers built up in freedom and justice, in the truth and charity of the sons of God. Saints who are dear to you are part of this family: Lorenzo, Valentino, Ilario, Rosa, Lucia, Bonaventure and many others. Our common Mother is Mary, whom you venerate with the title of Madonna della Quercia (Madonna of the Oak) as patroness of the whole diocese in its new configuration. May they guard you always in unity and nourish in each of you the desire to proclaim, with words and deeds, the presence and love of Christ!

Amen.

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