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Pope Francis apologizes that Amazon synod ‘Pachamama’ was thrown into Tiber River

The Holy Father said the recovered images may appear at the synod’s closing Mass on Sunday.

A wooden statue of a pregnant woman is pictured in the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina as part of exhibits on the Amazon region during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in Rome Oct. 18, 2019. Several copies of the statue were stolen from the church and thrown into the Tiber River Oct. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican City, Oct 25, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- After controversial statues were thrown into Rome’s Tiber River, Pope Francis has issued an apology during Friday’s afternoon session of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

“As bishop of this diocese,” Pope Francis, who is Bishop of Rome, said, “I ask forgiveness from those who have been offended by this gesture.”

Pope Francis also reported that the statues had been recovered from the river, are not damaged, and are being kept in the offices of the head of Italy’s national police.

The statues, which were identical carved images of a naked pregnant Amazonian woman, had been displayed in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, close to the Vatican, and used in several events, rituals, and expression of spirituality taking place during the Oct. 6-27 Amazonian synod.

The pope said they had been displayed in the church “without idolatrous intentions,” French agency I.Media reported.

The statues were thrown into the river Oct. 21; a video released on YouTube showed two men entering the Church, leaving with the statues, and then throwing them off a nearby bridge.

The figures have become symbols of controversy during the synod of bishops, which is a meeting held to discuss the Church’s life and pastoral ministry in the Amazonian region of South America. They first appeared at an Oct. 4 tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens, attended by Pope Francis, at which they were in the center of a collection of figurines around which attendees processed.

The pope referred to the statues as “Pachamama,” the name traditionally given to an Andean fertility goddess, which can be roughly translated as “Mother Earth.”

The pope’s use of the term “Pachamama” will likely further ongoing debate regarding the exact nature of the statutes, and what they represent.

They had been described as representing “Our Lady of the Amazon,” and some journalists initially suggested they represented the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Vatican spokesmen have said that they represent “life,” and are not religious symbols, but some journalists and commentators have raised questions about the origins of the symbols, and whether they were religious symbols of Amazonian indigenous groups.

Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican’s communications office, said last week that “fundamentally, it represents life. And enough. I believe to try and see pagan symbols or to see… evil, it is not,” he said, adding that “it represents life through a woman.”

He equated the image to that of a tree, saying “a tree is a sacred symbol.”

The pope said that the statues might be displayed during the closing Mass of the synod Oct. 27, saying that would be a matter for the Vatican’s Secretary of State to decide.



Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks on the “Pachamama” images, translated by Vatican News:


Good afternoon. I want to say a word about the statues of the pachamama that were taken from the church of the Transpontina – which were there without idolatrous intentions – and were thrown into the Tiber.

First of all, this happened in Rome, and as Bishop of the Diocese I ask pardon of the persons who were offended by this act.

Then, I want to communicate to you that the states, which have created such media clamour, were found in the Tiber. The statues were not damaged.

The Commandant of the Carabinieri desires that you should be informed of this recovery before the news is made public. At the moment, the news is confidential, and the statues are being kept in the office of the Commandant of the Italian Carabinieri.

The Command of the Carabinieri will be very happy to follow up on any indication that would you like to give concerning the manner of publication of the news, and for other initiatives you would like to take in this regard; as, for example, the Commandant said, “the exhibition of the statues during the Holy Mass for the closing of the Synod”. We’ll see.

I have delegated the Secretary of State to respond to this.

This is a bit of good news. Thank you.

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  1. “Pope Francis also reported that the statues had been recovered from the river, are not damaged,”

    Well, drat. I wish they had had time to burn the things.

    “He equated the image to that of a tree, saying “a tree is a sacred symbol.””

    To whom?

    “First of all, this happened in Rome, and as Bishop of the Diocese I ask pardon of the persons who were offended by this act.”

    Perhaps you ought first to ask pardon of those persons who were offended by displaying the idols in the first place. And I’d suggest apologizing to three Persons above all.

    • Well, I suppose it’s clear idolatry, contrary to the teachings of Christianity, who allowed this statue to be placed inside a holy place, it came in the eyes of the world, many were perplexed rather baffled, it is outrageous, its never seen before, a full inquiry and explanation is urgently needed

    • Bishop Athanasius Schneider reported on this recently (I heard on October 18, 2022), making many in the world aware of this incident and larger issues of the Holy See. On the face of it, this “Pachamama” figure definitely seems to represent a pagan idol; in no case is it proper to venerate or use in any Christian liturgy.

  2. Francis says Pachamama is not exhibited with idolatrous intent. Very well. He could hardly say the contrary.
    But the principle expounded in 1 Corinthians 8 seems apt. Saint Paul said he would refrain from meat sacrificed to idols If he felt eating it would scandalize his fellow Christians. I doubt Paul would approve of Francis appearing to sanction veneration of what many regard as an idol. It would not matter if Francis himself did not regard it as an idol.

    • Hrefn,

      Thank you.

      You might want to make a note of the book “Dangerous Food: 1 Corinthians 8-10 in Its Context (Studies in Christianity and Judaism)”, described here:

      The description begins:

      Recognizing the social meaning of food and meals in Greco-Roman culture and, in particular, the social meaning of idol-food, is an integral part of understanding the impact of Paul’s instructions to the Christian community at Corinth regarding the consumption of idol-food. Shared meals were a central feature of social intercourse in Greco-Roman culture. Meals and food were markers of social status, and participation at meals was the main means of establishing and maintaining social relations. Participation in public rites (and sharing the meals which ensued) was a requirement of holding public office.

    • Thank you for your comments. I think that’s a very good point.
      As Christians we should always first assume the best intentions in others. The Holy Father obviously doesn’t intend those wooden carvings to be worshipped. But the events of the past week have caused scandal to his flock and that needs to be taken seriously.

      I have an older friend who’s terribly upset about this and there are YouTube bloggers who appear to be capitalizing on the fears of traditional Catholics.
      So I think we need to step back and take a breath, be charitable,thoughtful, aware and alert. The foes of our Church seek division and we shouldn’t play into their hands.

      • Good intentions are baked into the progressive worldview. The progressive people believe their intentions are of such august purity that their ends justify any and all means necessary to achieve these ends. If you don’t subject these people to being judged by the objective consequences of their actions, they escape all accountability for their actions. Subjectivity and intentions are a recipe for self-righteousness and the dictatorship of moral relativism.

        • GregB speaks for many of us concerning the deceptive wickedness of “the progressive worldview” which unfortunately Pope Francis expresses.

      • As a very late comer to this discussion, (living under a rock I guess) I appreciate MRSCRACKER, as she states, “So I think we need to step back and take a breath, be charitable, thoughtful, aware and alert. The foes of our Church seek division and we shouldn’t play into their hands.” I like that, and agree. As we step into 2021, we need gird our loins!

    • Who said anything about venerating the wooden sculpture. It’s much ado about nothing. Get ahold of yourselves people. Those of us who actually LIVE the Catholic Faith know that we love and honor the church, the church instituted by JESUS CHRIST. The Roman Catholic Church. Amen, hallelujah!

  3. We read: “The pope said that the statues might be displayed during the closing Mass of the synod Oct. 27, saying that would be a matter for the Vatican’s Secretary of State to decide.”

    The Secretary of State?

    Does this mean that Pachamama and the entire Amazonia Synod have served as a sort of test case or even a decoy, and that–for good or for bad–that the key element of the underlying “reform” of the Curia is now, for practical purposes, decided and in place?

    The precedent would be the use of the recent Youth Synod as a pack mule for the late-appended and unvetted paragraphs on synodality.

    Elements of the proposed curial reform, as published earlier, included creation of one merged “super-dicastery” for Evangelization–and a diminished Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). This structure combined with an elevated role for the Secretariat of State–above the (silent-partner?) CDF.

    (Other draft reform elements were a one-size-fits-all reform of the autonomous departments and academies as dicasteries, possible creation of a dicastery for Charity, merger of [subsumed?] Education with Culture [the “paradigm shift”?], synodal decentralization from Rome even as Evangelization and possibly Charity and especially the Secretariat of State are ascendant, plus refrains throughout from Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si, and Amoris Laetitia.)

    With Amazonia as possible training wheels, will we now hear a surprise major announcement prior to Germania in December?

  4. I can only surmise that he is there to achieve an objective and that neither he nor his supporters and minions care about the views of genuine Catholics. He treats the Church and Catholics with contempt.

  5. The pope in a bubble.
    The irony of this pontificate. No longer the prisoner of the Vatican, the pope has become the prisoner of his own fantasy.
    It is at once anger provoking and profoundly pitiful.

  6. To be or not to be. Catholic. That is the question we Catholics must answer. A hypothetical. A pontiff who either seeks to retrieve an evangelical conversion oriented Catholic identity in a post Christian world, or rather seeks to eradicate that Catholic identity and create an entirely different idea of Christianity conformable to that post Christian world. Considerations. Regards the latter the Pontiff frowned upon a conversion as “trophyism”. He presided over a pagan ‘ecological’ ritual on the Vatican gardens. Regards the former he reconstituted the John Paul II Institute to reflect secular opinion on homosexuality, abortion, pop control, ecology. Amazonia has indeed been referred to as initiating a Big Tent religion. “Do those who raise the Tent perhaps not truly believe that Christ has defeated all these [demonic] forces by His redemptive work and that He, exalted over them all, forever and utterly maintains His sovereignty as Lord? In pagan ceremonies such as the ‘Pago a la Tierra’ – which closely resembles the event held in the Vatican gardens identified by a shaman’s grandson as a pagan ritual – sacrificing to spirits is the point of the whole thing. They involve giving back to ‘Mother Earth’ some of what is taken from ‘her’ in order to appease her if too much has been taken, in which case ‘she’ would no longer nurture but destroy through earthquakes and illness” (Bishop José Luis Azcona, Emeritus Bishop of Marajó in the Amazon in LifeSite). Jesuit Cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich, archbishop of Luxembourg made Cardinal the eve of the Synod strongly urges ecological conversion for all. Fr A Spadaro SJ Pope Francis’ ideological adviser perceives ecological conversion an equivalent of conversion to Christ. Pachamama carvings are the disputed entre into a new form of ecological awareness, perhaps a religion of ecology now the controversial center of what ecological conversion means. Cardinal Gerhard Müller to Raymond Arroyo’s query, “The great mistake was to bring the idols into the Church [Maria del Traspontina], not to put them out [throw them into the Tiber], because according to the Law of God Himself – the First Commandment – idolism [idolatry] is a grave sin and not to mix them with the Christian liturgy.”

    • Add to the Cardinal Müller’s condemnation that of Bishop Athanasius Schneider in a startling rebuke of the Pontiff in an Open Letter apparently issued today 10.26.19, “It was the logical practical consequence of the Abu Dhabi statement. The abomination of the veneration of wooden idols perpetrated in Rome during the Amazon Synod. Faced with such an evident scandal it is impossible that a Catholic bishop would remain silent, it would be unworthy of a successor of the Apostles. The first in the Church who should condemn such acts and do reparation is Pope Francis” (Bishop Schneider Astana Kazakhstan as cited in 1P5).

  7. This spectacle is finally over. These idols should have never been allowed in the first place into our Church! This heretic Pope needs to be replaced and his minions with him.

  8. I was a prisoner of the Catholic Church for 26 years and have many Catholic friends and family, but one day I read in the Bible Deuteronomy 4:15-16: “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female ..” God forbids any kind of graven images BEFORE Pachamama! Then I read the commandments specifically Exodus 20:4 where God prohibits ANY kind of graven images. Therefore the Catholic Church opened the gates to idolatry long time BEFORE Pachamama!!! Where does all this commotion coming from???!!! Praise Yahweh I’m His prisoner now!!!

    • I’m sorry that you lost your faith. I pray that you will be given the grace to return to the Church.

      Your interpretation of Deuteronomy 4:15-16 is seriously flawed. God forbids making idols, not images. If I make a statue of George Washington I’m not making an idol to worship, I’m making an image of a man whom I admire. If I have photographs of my friends and relatives, I’m not idolizing them, just bringing them to mind.

    • I thought like you thought until Jesus personally encountered me in a non denominational Christian Church. Many things I saw while in a home led by this church, a sort of Christian boot camp, He had showed me in a childhood dream. Long story short, I came home after and remembered Him telling me in the dream He was gonna leave something for me on y grandma’s lamp. I am 26 or 27 at this time (33 now) so I go to the lamp and there is a Rosary wrapped around the lamp shade. Also a calendar my mom left there of images of grottos of Mary. I had already come back to the Catholic Church and was reciting the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries of the Gospel associated with the Holy Queen’s Most Holy Rosary but left it in God’s hands with hope for Him to show me it was OK. I knew it wasn’t going to be held against me because my mother and grandmothers prayed it for me when I was in the Marine Corps, not to be deployed which I pushed hard to be deployed and had 2 occasions I was on the list, that both of them I was dropped. 1 I had even extended my 4 year contract for, and ended up suckered by a married female Marine, who my command saw was actually breaking her restraining order against me by coming to my barracks room when I wasn’t there, which she had no business at all being near our barracks as she was married and had housing on the housing portion of Camp Lejeune, NC. I only got 2 weeks of non judicial punishment and my 1St Sergeant who was a woman gave me the 3rd degree in front of 2 staff noncommissioned officers as witnesses if she ever heard anything about me in a sexual misconduct type of action ever in the future again.

    • You’re idolizing your own subjectivism. Everyone knows what scripture says about idolatry which is why Catholicism has consistently condemned it. Nothing is different now. This is why Catholics who are Catholics are offended by these idiotic practices. When individuals in the Church practice idolatry, it is their individual sin, not the Church’s sin.

  9. May you be blessed by Almighty God!

    It is a sad day when every word and action of the Vicar of Christ on earth is picked apart.

    Pope Francis has told us that there were no “idolatrous intentions” regarding the Pachamama figures and we should leave it at that. That means taking his word for it, just like you would like the same done for you if you were known to the entire world.

    The conservative right, of which I am a part politically but not as a Catholic (I’m just plain old Catholic), won’t take the Holy Father’s words at face value. They complain that he does not explain himself and therefore “leaves us all in the dark about his intentions.”

    While it is not the answer the conservative right relishes to hear, it is the answer Pope Francis gave to us: THERE WERE NO IDOLATROUS INTENTIONS.

    No explanation can be as clear and easy to understand. However, since it is not the answer that is desirable to the conservative right, therefore his answer is picked apart and torn apart and the love he wishes to show to the good people of the Amazon is stomped on.

    I beg you, please listen to the Holy Father. He is the Vicar of Christ on earth. We own him reverence, respect and our filial and loving obedience.

    It should be noted, if we have the chance to read Our Holy Father’s “Laudato Si” that he quotes St. Francis of Assisi who speaks of ‘Mother Earth’ and calls her sister as well. Perhaps folks would be signing protests if he, St. Francis of Assisi, were alive today as well.

    • “Pope Francis has told us that there were no “idolatrous intentions” regarding the Pachamama figures and we should leave it at that. That means taking his word for it, just like you would like the same done for you if you were known to the entire world.”

      If this were the first incident in which the Pope has sown confusion, I might agree with you. But it isn’t.

      I do not see how it can possibly be claimed that there were no “idolatrous intentions” in something that so clearly involved an idol. I assume that the Pope was not worshiping the idol, but it is quite clear that the others were. I do not understand why he did not tell them to stop that evil nonsense. Can you envision St. Peter or St. Paul standing idly by while someone brought an idol to a Christian assemblage and proceeded to offer things to it?

      “However, since it is not the answer that is desirable to the conservative right, therefore his answer is picked apart and torn apart and the love he wishes to show to the good people of the Amazon is stomped on.”

      Leaving them wallowing in idolatrous ignorance is hardly showing them love. Confusing them by permitting the mingling of idolatry with Christianity is not showing love, either. And scandalizing the rest of the Church shows scant love for the rest of his flock.

      Saint Francis wrote “Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
      Mother Earth” He is not praising Earth as a goddess, he is, as with all the other things in the Canticle, praising God for His creation.

      • Today is the Feast of St. John Damascene. Very interesting in his work against iconoclasm.

        Pope Francis, in saying there were no idolatrous intentions, was clearly not condoning anyone praising Pachamama as a goddess.

        I think Christ Our Savior must be saddened by this intense vitriol against His Vicar.

        My husband said it best, “Oh my Mrs., they are just trying to find one more thing to rail against the Holy Father over.”

        Long live Our Holy Father!!

        • Maybe he wasn’t “condoning it,” but he didn’t do anything to stop it.

          And don’t try to pretend that this has anything to do with iconoclasm. That Pachamama idol is clearly an idol, and destroying it isn’t “iconoclasm.” Nobody I’ve hear about who is horrified and disgusted by the idolatry of Pachamama would want any statues or painting of Our Lord or any of the saints destroyed.

          “I think Christ Our Savior must be saddened by this intense vitriol against His Vicar.”

          Or perhaps Christ our Savior is saddened by the idolatry that clearly took place, and by the placing of idols in one of His Church building, and by the prayer to Pachamama that the Italian bishops included in a prayer booklet, and by the failure of His Vicar to stop the evil in its tracks.

          “My husband said it best, “Oh my Mrs., they are just trying to find one more thing to rail against the Holy Father over.””

          Do you think that when this Pope was elected most of us started hunting for something to complain about? It was following action after action, statement after statement, that we ceased to believe the constant explanations and excuses that tried to whitewash statements and actions that were, at best, questionable.

          “Long live Our Holy Father!!”

          Indeed, yes; and may he cease sowing confusion and distress, and do a much better job of upholding Catholic teaching.

          • One of my favorite quotes, and a cry from the heart of St. Pius X, as well as a cry from my own heart is the following:
            The Pope is the guardian of dogma and of morals; he is the custodian of the principles that make families sound, nations great, souls holy; he is the counsellor of princes and of peoples; he is the head under whom no one feels tyrannized because he represents God Himself; he is the supreme father who unites in himself all that may exist that is loving, tender, divine.
            It seems incredible, and is even painful, that there be priests to whom this recommendation must be made, but we are regrettably in our age in this hard, unhappy, situation of having to tell priests: love the Pope!
            And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth – 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, “si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit,” [if any one love me, he will keep my word – Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.
            Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey – that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.
            This is the cry of a heart filled with pain, that with deep sadness I express, not for your sake, dear brothers, but to deplore, with you, the conduct of so many priests, who not only allow themselves to debate and criticize the wishes of the Pope, but are not embarrassed to reach shameless and blatant disobedience, with so much scandal for the good and with so great damage to souls. (Saint Pius X, November 18, 1912, Allocution Vi ringrazio to priests on the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Union)

          • Yes, that was St. Pius X. Who would have recoiled in horror at the idolatry, and who did not have to have spokesmen issuing a constant stream of apologies and explanations for confusing statements.

            “We do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, ”

            Pope St. Pius X communicated with exquisite clarity, and did not make statements that seemed to contradict Church teaching. Anybody who pretended otherwise was being disingenuous. A situation that sadly does not hold today.

            So, tell me, are you going next to become outraged that people criticize, say, Pope John XII?

      • Jane absolute obedience to authority prohibiting recourse to reason is more Emmanuel Kant’s Luther inspired moral imperative than reflective of Catholicism. Catholics hold to the correspondence between faith and reason faith given priority. Obedience to the Roman Pontiff is not an act of faith in a person rather a faithful recognition of the office [the canonical definition of that authority] instituted by Christ. Matters that are not Magisterially binding, either ex cathedra, or definitively pronounced are subject to reasoned assessment. You may interpret Pachamama veneration as you wish insofar as the Pope’s intent. Right reason however assesses the object of the act, which is veneration [worship] of an Idol.

  10. I have a wager for you: just read the Holy Father’s words alone for about a month, and you will feel the same as me.

    You will realize that he does not condone idolatry. That what he said was what he said: there were no idolatrous intentions.

    How is it possible to cast out demons with the help of demons?

    Also, a great article to consider is one which Joanne Baker writes on Homiletic and Pastoral Review. He article is entitled “Is it Virtuous to Criticize the Pope?” Her short answer is, “No, it is not virtuous to criticize the Holy Father. It goes against the virtues of reverence, respect and piety, as well as against just judgment, fraternal correction and just correction.” It’s a very well-written article and largely based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. God Bless you

    • You are right, didn’t Jesus tell Peter to eat unclean animals symbolically Himself. People need to slow their role. Maybe Mary wasn’t talking about the Pope as the smoke of Satan in the vision but the dissenters who will not respect God’s Authority to lead through the seat of Peter as He willed to do since the day he told Peter, “you are Rock, and from this Rock I will build my Church. “

    • On the other hand, it was Pope Francis himself who said, not too long ago, that “it is no sin to criticize the pope.” He, too and of course, sees the distinction between the pope and the papal office.

      Perhaps the call is to offer critique in a constructive way, with restraint, justice and charity. And, yes, respect and piety. Or, do we believe now that any pope is both personally indefectible in his more-or-less informal actions and inactions, as well as infallible in formally teaching faith and morals under the precise conditions defined by the First Vatican Council?

    • I read his words at great length, and I am disgusted. I find a prideful incoherent mind unschooled in the Catholic faith yet simply out to prove his superiority to all who preceded him. You should read Vigano instead and not the foolish advice of someone making a false claim that it is wrong to criticize an evil voice within the Church, no matter where that voice originates.

  11. As a Catholic, very flawed, I apologize to the world for my Church, for its moral indifference towards the practice of burying children alive in the Amazon and the refusal to have more concern for this than wooden statues by almost everyone, before, during, and after a “Synod” that amounted to spitting in the face of God.

  12. Even Western culture regresses to an earlier barbaric level and begins to resemble the polytheistic Arabian “days of ignorance” (prior to the coming of Muhammed). Mingled with the many flaws of Muhammed and of polyglot Islam, we find in the Qur’an that countercultural Muhammed ALSO prohibits the not uncommon practice in early Arabia of burying alive, in sand dunes, unwanted female babies (males were exempt)—a practice distinguished only by technology from clinical late-term abortions, AND in Pachamama-land by only the water content of Amazon soils.

    My source is De Lacy O’Leary, Arabia Before Muhammad (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., [1927] 202). The author cites Q 6:141, 152; 16:60-1; and 17:31-33 (see also Q 81:3). In two extended accounts (probably also in the Hadith), Muhammed is said to have been reduced to tears when hearing of such live burials (Jean Sassoon, Princess Sultana’s Daughters [New York: Doubleday, 1994], 90-96).

    Muhammed’s response to a guilty father is recorded: “Sons and daughters are both gifts of God, the Prophet reminded him. Both are equally gifts, and so they should always be treated equally.” Today, equality apparently means that both are equally vulnerable and, under the cult of globalism, in all settings.

  13. Keep common sense 1st. The idols were thrown into the Tiber, then the pope had them fished out. End of discussion. Common sense, it’s now ok to serve up idols of paganism in the catholic church.

    Thanks P. Francis

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