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Praedicate evangelium: Pope Francis reforms Roman Curia with launch of Vatican constitution

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is reflected in a puddle in Rome Dec. 9, 2021. (CNS photo/Cindy Wooden)

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2022 / 05:20 am (CNA).

The Vatican published on Saturday a long-awaited document implementing Pope Francis’ reform of the organization and structure of the Roman Curia.

The apostolic constitution, Praedicate evangelium (“Preach the Gospel”), was released on March 19 after nine years in production by the pope’s Council of Cardinal Advisers.

Praedicate evangelium replaces Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia promulgated by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, and later modified by both popes Benedict and Francis.

With the publication of the new constitution, Pastor bonus is “fully abrogated and replaced.”

The constitution was issued on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ninth anniversary of the inauguration of Pope Francis’ pontificate. It will take full effect on June 5, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

Under the new constitution, all the Vatican’s departments are now known as “dicasteries.” The powerful Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, will now be known as the “Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Along with removing the title “Congregation” from Vatican departments, the new constitution renames Pontifical Councils as “dicasteries.”

The Office of Papal Charities, run by the Papal Almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, becomes the new Dicastery for the Service of Charity.

The 16 dicasteries will be known as the Dicastery for Evangelization, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dicastery for the Service of Charity, Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Dicastery for Bishops, Dicastery for the Clergy, Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, Department for Culture and Education, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Dicastery for Legislative Texts, and Dicastery for Communication.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples are merged into the Dicastery for Evangelization, chaired directly by the pope.

The document explains that “it became necessary to reduce the number of departments, joining together those whose purpose was very similar or complementary, and rationalize their functions with the aim of avoiding overlapping of competencies and making their work more effective.”

The Pontifical Council for Culture and the Congregation for Catholic Education are united in the Dicastery for Culture and Education, which is divided into two sections.

The goals of the reform are set out in a section called “Principles and criteria for the service of the Roman Curia.”

It sets out 11 guiding principles: “Service to the Pope’s mission,” “ Co-responsibility in the communio,” “Service to the mission of the Bishops,” “Support for the particular Churches and their Episcopal Conferences and Eastern hierarchical structures,” “The vicarious nature of the Roman Curia,” “Spirituality,” “Personal integrity and professionalism,” “Collaboration between the Dicasteries,” “Interdicasterial and intradicasterial meetings,” “Expression of catholicity,” and “Reduction of Dicasteries.”

On his election in 2013, Pope Francis was widely seen as having a mandate to reform the Roman Curia. Over the first nine years of his pontificate, he issued decrees changing Vatican law and structures, which are reflected in the text of the new constitution.

The document confirms changes to the former Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith unveiled by Pope Francis in February.

The pope reorganized the internal structure of the Vatican’s doctrine office into two sections: a doctrinal section and a disciplinary section.

Setting out the doctrinal section’s responsibilities, the new constitution says that it works in close contact with Church leaders around the world “in the exercise of their mission as authentic teachers and teachers of the faith, for which they are bound to safeguard and promote the integrity of that faith.”

The section “examines writings and opinions that appear contrary or harmful to the right faith and morals; it seeks dialogue with their authors and presents suitable remedies to be made, in accordance with its own norms.”

It also “endeavors to ensure that there is an adequate refutation of the dangerous errors and doctrines which are spread among the Christian people.”

The constitution says that the newly named Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is responsible for arranging “the drafting or revision and updating of the typical [original Latin] editions of liturgical books.”

“The dicastery confirms the translations of liturgical books into current languages and gives recognitio [formal recognition] to their appropriate adaptations to local cultures, legitimately approved by the bishops’ conferences,” it says.

It adds that “the dicastery deals with the regulation and discipline of the sacred liturgy as regards the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.”

Pope Francis imposed tight restrictions on the celebration of extraordinary form Masses — also known as Traditional Latin Masses — in his July 2021 apostolic letter Traditionis custodes.

The Council of Cardinals finished the first draft of the new constitution in 2018. The text was then circulated among the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, dicasteries of the Roman Curia, synods of the Eastern Churches, conferences of major superiors, and select pontifical universities for feedback in 2019.

The Council of Cardinals met in February 2020 for “an in-depth re-reading and revision” of the document.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the cardinals continued to review the text at virtual meetings with Pope Francis.

Seven cardinals currently serve on the Council of Cardinals, helped by secretary Bishop Marco Mellino: Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who acts as coordinator; Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State; Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay; German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising; U.S. Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston; and Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa.

In January 2021, Parolin said that “considerable progress” had already been made in the pope’s reform of the Roman Curia, particularly with regard to Vatican finances, pointing to the creation of the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy, and the Office of the Revisor General.

He added that further reforms could include the merger of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and the combination of the Congregation for Catholic Education with the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“But these are minor actions compared to what has already been done,” he said. “Now it is a question of giving homogeneity to all the reforms which have been made, by means of the new apostolic constitution.”

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  1. As soon as this Pontificate ends, the ongoing corruption of the Church Curia, under the profane priorities of the Secretariat of State, first launched by the Paul VI, and now super-charged by the Pontiff Francis, should be torn down and entirely abrogated.

    From there, the Congregation of the Faith dhould be restored as the primary Congregation, and taken out of the hands of the Pontiff, to assure its integrity over time, and reassert the rule of God’s Law over the whimsy of mere mortals, who get over-inflated egos when assuming office.

    • We read quoted in the new release that “The document confirms changes to the former Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] unveiled by Pope Francis in February. The pope reorganized the internal structure of the Vatican’s doctrine office into two sections: a doctrinal section and a disciplinary section.”

      Does this bifurcation set in place the past trend of affirming dogmatic morality while at the same time enabling such truths to be not denied, but suspended, as in enabling cohabitation (as merely “irregular”) or the homosexual lifestyle—without formally denying anything? Not mitigation of subjective accountability, but a new category of exemption?

      Of moral teaching, the CDF doctrinal section is still blessed with Veritatis Splendor, for example this (from n. 115): “This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching, and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial” [and!] “Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the REAFFIRMATION OF THE UNIVERSALITY AND IMMUTABILITY OF THE MORAL COMMANDMENTS [italics], particularly those which prohibit always and without exception INTRINSICALLY EVIL ACTS [italics].”

      The announcement holds that “Church leaders” (“leaders,” including such as the mongrelized German “synodal way”?) “in the exercise of their mission as authentic teachers and teachers of the faith, for which they are bound to safeguard and promote the integrity of that faith.”

      Meaning, surely (!), the integrity of the integral faith and morals…

      • “Does this bifurcation set in place the past trend of affirming dogmatic morality while at the same time enabling such truths to be not denied, but suspended” (Beaulieu).
        This was my earlier take when announced, that the separation would facilitate a differential, multiple possibilities one the analogy of a differential axle in which the drive shaft [doctrinal] section’s steady output of controversy is slowly, in due time inappreciably implemented in the doctrinal section.
        Clever these Radlibs.

        • Correction. I meant to say, inappreciably implemented in the disciplinary section. Yet who knows, that what’s initially addressed with appropriate ambiguity [as is the Vatican’s wont] in the doctrinal section will be considered doctrine in due time by that section in the manner of the old Soviet school of indoctrination by endless repetition.
          Related, an essayist in TCT theorizes Francis may, in his tamping down emphasis on abortion, homosexuality, may intend to develop an entree into the world, as it is, with focus on poverty and just wage. Eventually integrating the former mentioned moral issues. A kind idea that has no virtue in succeeding since the general acceptance of Catholic doctrine on abortion and homosexuality requires a true internal conversion to the truth, which has zero possibility by any attempt at slight of hand.

          • “Church leaders”?…
            The Council affirmed that “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether in its written form or in that of Tradition, has been entrusted only to those charged with the Church’s living Magisterium, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (Dei Verbum, n. 10, cited in Veritatis Splendor, VS, n. 27, all in ITALICS).

            As for Parolin’s “anthropological-cultural change” and a “paradigm shift”, this instead: “[the moral catechesis of the Apostles…] made under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of the Lord’s precepts as they are to be lived in different cultural circumstances (cf. Rom 12-15, 1 Cor 11-14; Gal 5-6; Eph 4-6, Col 3-4, 1 Pt and Jas)” (VS, n. 26). And, “No damage must be done to the HARMONY BETWEEN FAITH AND LIFE [italics]: the unity of the Church is damaged not only by Christians who reject or distort truths of faith but also by those who disregard the moral obligations to which they are called by the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 5:9-13)” (VS, n. 26).

            Beware the generic (?) “gospel of Jesus” displacing the actual Christ of the Gospel, or words displacing the Word.

      • I suspect that some Catholics see the firmament of serious sin as wider than sexual misbehavior. Some commentators prefer to ignore it, but the cover-up of scandal and the persistent lies of bishops in the 1978-2013 era are a far more contrary witness to the Gospel than any cohabiting couple still going to Mass.

        When a priest or other leader has harmed a person in a lesser relationship, there are ethical standards a bishop must apply. Defending the appearances of the institution are far, far, far down the list. The DDF and its organization appear to reinforce the importance of delivering correction to church leaders who struggle with ethics.

        We should all be fine with this reorganization, and many discouraged Catholics will be watching to see if the promised curial reform takes root. Their purpose is to serve the Church. Not to preserve themselves as an institution.

        • Mr. Flowerday:

          It might be persuasive to simply state that you are in support of this “re-organization,” and give your reasons for judging worthy of your support.

          After 50 years of the supreme corruption of the Secretariat of State “reform model,” there are no apparent reasons for Catholic observers to cast any votes aside from “no confidence.”

          A “reorganization” that magnifies the ambit of the decadent Secretariat of State is a continuation of pontifical and episcopal theater.

          And an appeal that “we should all be fine with this reorganization” rings of the worn-out,
          auto-mated submission to what one wag has dubbed “the clericalist caste system.”

        • Deeper, yes…but wider…unfortunately not.

          But then again…, no matter how deep and wide…Dante had them all in deep…in the Inferno.

          But as one well known Church personality has stated, there is no Hell…as that idea is “counter to the Gospel.” Even the endowments of Our Lord Jesus are refined by the oracles of the “wandering shepherd.”

          • A wandering palate of ideas in a discussion often means the main topic is exhausted. I observe the curia contained some of the deepest resistance to Vatican II. Power is hard to surrender, even when one wraps oneself in the mantle of Jesus who demonstrated kenosis to a godly degree.

            Let’s keep in mind that it was the popes of 1978-2013 who gave us some of the most scandal-tainted bishops of the era, prelates I’ve seen vilified on the internet in a range of websites so wide this location is actually bedfellows with the NCRep.

            Now, to be sure, PF has his blindspots. He’s only a man. Like his two predecessors. Where he lacks the spots of his predecessors, there may be hope of reform. We might know by the 2030s. This is still the RC Church, after all.

            So, I plan to continue to poke here and there at Francis-critics, especially when their opinions seem … wonky, to use a theological term.

            This reorganization to elevate evangelization, discipleship, and mission should have happened in the 1970s. That it didn’t means we’ve planted ourselves into deep post-Christian soil. Sad, perhaps that two generations have been lost. But it’s the challenge in front of us. If the curia resets to help bishops and their dioceses rather than being an entity unto itself–this is a good thing. If Rome is providing a sort of super-chancery, I sure hope it can get working well. And if not, there are always good dioceses and parishes here and there. At least there won’t be any ideological rabbit holes generated in Vatican offices anymore. I hope.

      • Peter:

        I am not certain you were intending to reply to me, but assuming so, I can only say that I agree that the Church hierarchs are “mongrelizing” Church teaching.

        For my part I have no doubt that this is a deliberate apostasy at the very summit of the Church (though I admit that as regards behavior we have been here before with prior “pornocracies” of the 10th and 16th centuries).

        I seethe contemporary collapse as the culmination of a 50-year project beginning with Paul VI in his “reorganization” of the Roman Curia, demoting the Sacred Congregation for the Faith (for centuries the primary Congregation in the Church) to 2nd rank, and promoting the Secretariat of State as the senior-most Congregation. This was and remains an ominous gesture, the subordination of the sacred faith to the profane priorities of the Vatican City-State. The recent “re-organizations” by the Pontiff Francis have only served to super-charge the immense power of the Secretariat of State, and demote the Faith deep down into the thoroughly dysfunctional and disoriented Vatican bureaucracy.

        This signals that ulterior purpose of “the new evangelization” is an outright fraud.

        No organization can deny that its primary concerns are reflected in its primary organizing principles. Organizations “organize” themselves around what matters to them most. Since 1970, the Catholic Church hierarchs have re-organized the Roman Curia around the profane, and subordinated the faith to those concerns. The fruit of these priorities is now evident in a single lifetime: the complete collapse of the Church in Europe, with North and South America following in rapid succession just one generation behind.

        The abomination of desolation was the Pontiff Francis’ orchestration and sponsorship of idolatry in 2019.

        In 2020 Father Robert Imbelli wrote an essay “No De-Capitated Body,” wherein he updates his prior assessment of the state of the Church (first made in 2000), stating that twenty years later “there is abroad [in the Church] a … quite intentional apostasy.” (The ellipses indicating the deletion of the qualifying words “measure of innocent and sometimes,” which he included in 2000).

        His essay can be read at the link above, with the quoted assessment on the 6th page of the essay (numbered 762 in the Journal).

        • My comment was meant as a supportive footnote elaboration of your comment. Thank you for the Imbelli link at the St. Paul Center.

          The newly and even more centralized position for the Secretariat of State contrasts with the stated (!) and countervailing intent to decentralize the governance of the Church in some global way. The worst-case scenario would be diverging continental synods (e.g., Europe captured by Germany) combined with strategic silences and political accommodations by the Secretariat of State at the curial level (if the curia still are a “level” reminiscent of some kind of hierarchy).

          Following one earlier lay recommendation, the next papacy must consist of (a) a doctrinally unambiguous pope of the highest order, combined with (b) a strong second-in-command truly capable of governing in a most demanding, modern and centrifugal situation (in the seat now carved out for the Secretariat of State?). It was also recommended that, in his first days, (c) the new pope should clean house—-deferred for now?

          Such overall irony of pouring vintage wine in a new wine skin would have to be the nothing less than the mysteriously chaotic work of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Seeing so many people from all over the world involved in this restructure I am sure that it will work out fine. Pope Francis, who has overseen this exercise, has no doubt prayerfully sought guidance from the Holy Spirit to ensure success of this endeavor.
    Thank you Pope Francis for the time and energy you spend to make the human elements of our Church run more smoothly. I will say a prayer for its success.

    • Your pietistic blather only serves to highlight that this is a continuation of the unceasing “catastrophe” and “disaster” that a recent memorandum circulated among the cardinals of the Church describes as the hallmarks of the 10-year reign of terror of this presumed papacy.

      • Your description of the reign of the papacy – not presumed, as you erroneously call it – is fake news of the MSM kind.

        • Fake news is your Pollyanna-like sycophancy of the “disaster” and “catastrophe” of this papacy that is as hollow and thin as your pietistic blather.

    • As for the Church “constantly changing,” St. John Henry Cardinal Newman is often MISQUOTED on this point: “[regarding] philosophy or belief ….] the old principles reappear under new forms. It [belief] changes with them in order to remain the same [!]. In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed [?] often.”

      With the LEVELING of all curial offices into equivalent dicasteries, then, some discern (a) a new and co-responsible papal cabinet, but others dread the (b) the equality of a Procrustean Bed, or simply recall (c) the equally aligned chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Understated in the article is the superior role of the Secretariat of State (apostle of the “paradigm shift”)—-surely (!) not at the expense of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

      Apart from the leveled curial office cubicles…which way is the WIND actually blowing?

      Perhaps an even more blurred accommodation with the secular world as with the China “provisional agreement;” now soon to also include a truce with the stowaway lavender mafia (?); or (even more inclusive!) bunk room for the entire and mutinous German “synodal way”?

      The anchoring HOPE for all is that “Church leaders are bound to safeguard and promote the integrity of that faith.” Such leaders as Batzing? Marx? and Hollerich? And, with all the other successors of the apostles as synodal and non-leadership “facilitators”?

      Surely, the stage has been set for a safeguarding response to the DUBIA! But, when asked, this staged and windy triumvirate has already signaled the future.

  3. Hopefully a good development, moving forward after the backtracking of the 1978-2013 era which was marked by rampant sycophants, cover-up scandals involving abuse, money, and even sex. One aging pope was overrun by his curia. And another resigned because of it.

    Evangelization is the primary mission of the Church. If someone gets the first seat at the dicastery table, it need not be the DDF. Good for Pope Francis. A long time coming on this, but hopefully well thought out and discerned.

    • Mr. Flowerday:

      When you protest about sycophants in the Catholic Church prior to 2013, you’d best not be standing outside under a cloudy sky, as you might conduct some electricity.

      Many candid observers are noting that while sycophants are nothing new, the malady seems not to have ended with the election of Pontiff Francis, and are finding instead that the 2013-22 sycophants behave as if the are vying to be the champion sycophants of all time.

      The bishop from Malta, His Excellency Scicluna, comes to mind, doesn’t he?

      • He doesn’t. The Church always and on all levels has people who want an in with the leadership. Wise pastors see this coming.

        I think Pope Francis has his eyes more open, and appears even more open to correction than his predecessors were. JP2 and B16 were bitterly betrayed by advisers and hangers-on. Clearly the curia wasn’t functional in the last years of Pope Benedict XVI, and the expectation has been that Francis was going to insist on change. Which he has done. So good on him, and down with sycophants. All good, yes?

        • More entries in the 2013-22 Sycophant Championship Series:

          Rev. Tom Rosica: “[Pontiff Francis] “breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants because he is ‘free from disordered attachments.’ Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.”

          Theodore McCarrick: “There were rumors here in Washington that the new U.S. government had submitted a request for an agrement for a new U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See… One of the names that was mentioned was … one of the biographers of St. John Paul II. He is very much a leader of the ultra-conservative wing of the Catholic Church in the United States and has been publicly critical of Your Holiness in the past….Many of us American bishops would have great concerns about his being named to such a position in which he would have an official voice, in opposition to your teaching….”

          • You bring to mind the report of Archbishop Forte regarding the Pope and “Amoris Laetitia” …
            “Archbishop Forte has in fact revealed a “behind the scenes” [moment] from the Synod: “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried,” said Archbishop Forte, reporting a joke of Pope Francis, “you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.”
            “Typical of a Jesuit,” Abp Forte joked…
            Archbishop Forte wasn’t laughing long after that indiscretion went viral.

          • Well, we had JP2, and his Congregation of Bishops gave us opponents of both women’s ordination and mature sexual conduct. B16 resigned in the face of betrayal in the College of Cardinals. The jury’s out on PF, and not just among his knee-jerk opponents. But he’s the guy in charge at the moment. And I have a lot more hope than when JP2 was schmoozing with Maciel and his millions, and when B16 went bishop-hunting in the Australian outback while Ted McCarrick and his proteges were plying their trade.

            Face it: Pope Benedict knew he had failed after Cd O’Brien was outed. It was the culmination of a sad era of betrayals and ecclesiological false flags. It is curious that some of the same voices so critical of the betrayal of the faith are opposed to the very reforms intended to expose and root out future misbehavior. Go figure.

  4. When in accordance with Christ’s teachings, excellent! Le all be submissive to the Lord.

    Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses.

    Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

    1 Peter 3:2 When they see your respectful and pure conduct.

    1 Corinthians 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

    Let us be in prayer for our leaders.

  5. Thanks, Tod, what you say is absolutely true. That is exactly the situation as many Catholics see it. There are some hardened Pope Francis haters who will criticize whatever this good and faithful Catholic – our Pope – says or does.

  6. I wonder how this unneeded internal corporate re-organization will help the REAL church? By REAL, I mean the faithful who have long abandoned the church? Some disaffected by the loss of the Latin Mass, now, thanks to the Pope, in real danger of going extinct. Some who simply no longer see the church and her teachings as relevant to their lives ( this image re-enforced by priests and Bishops who refuse to preach clear church teaching for fear of a loss of income). Some just disgusted with the church sex abuse scandal, who left, vowing not to return. This sort of internal shuffling of power will do NOTHING to induce these people to return. It is not the focus of this pontiff. I lector, and my church appears to be filled with people who are aged 70 and above–those who faithfully hobble into Mass most Sundays. After that a handful of the middle aged. Almost nobody under the age of 35.Soon, the church will be forced to shutter its doors.At least, that will happen in the western industrialized nations who have thus far provided the funds to keep the global church running. Maybe the Pope should start paying attention to this reality. And NOT by providing more protestantized church buildings. NOT by restricting the Latin Mass. Not by allowing services not recognizable as Catholic in a bid to be “modern” and attract” younger folks”. . Keep the dances and rock songs out of it. This Pope has plenty of solutions in search of a problem. Yet nary a word about the German schismatic synod.

  7. By REAL, I mean the faithful who have abandoned the Church.
    What? The faithful, by the hundreds of millions, are still in the Church. They have not, and will not, abandon the Church. That is akin to abandoning our souls.

    • Really? Did you read the rest of my post? My church seats 700. WE would be lucky to get that on Easter or Christmas. Frankly, many of those still attending will not be with us 10 years from now. I see almost no faces in the crowd younger than my own.As parishes continue to close schools, and consolidate parishes, and it takes decades to recover ( if at all) from the sex abuse crisis, what is the future of the church looking like? To pretend there is no problem here is to delude oneself.

  8. I haven’t gotten around to reading this article but I find the comments disheartening. Think I’ll rely on Robert Royal and The Catholic Thing for a fuller understanding.

  9. what groups in the curia, exactly, are behind the changes? Pope Francis himself, as a person, is not able. Nothing in the changes address the need to change the heart.

  10. The actual change the Curia needs is for corrupt Deep Church bureaucrats to be fired and, where necessary, sent to prison for corruption. But sadly there is no hope of that happening under the current Scandal engulfed Pontificate.

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