Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Fort Worth: some look to Rome

Updated again Wednesday morning

The Dallas Morning News has this report: Episcopal priests from Fort Worth may be looking at Catholicism.

A delegation of Episcopal priests from Fort Worth paid a visit to Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann earlier this summer, asking for guidance on how their highly conservative diocese might come into “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

Whether that portends a serious move to turn Fort Worth Episcopalians and their churches into Catholics and Catholic churches is a matter of dispute.

The Rev. William Crary, senior rector of the Fort Worth diocese, confirmed that on June 16 he and three other priests met with Bishop Vann, leader of the Fort Worth Catholic diocese, and presented him a document that is highly critical of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The document states that the overwhelming majority of Episcopal clergy in the Fort Worth diocese favor pursuing an “active plan” to bring the diocese into full communion with the Catholic Church…

The document was published yesterday by Katie Sherrod and can be found in full at So. How do you feel about being Roman Catholic?

Update Tuesday evening

Bishop Jack Iker has issued a statement, headed A Statement by Bishop Iker on Roman Catholic Dialogues. It reads, in part:

…The priests who participated in this meeting with Bishop Vann have my trust and pastoral support. However, in their written and verbal reports, they have spoken only on their own behalf and out of their own concerns and perspective. They have not claimed to act or speak, nor have they been authorized to do so, either on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or on my own behalf as their Bishop.

Their discussion with Bishop Vann has no bearing upon matters coming before our Diocesan Convention in November, where a second vote will be taken on constitutional changes concerning our relationship with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. There is no proposal under consideration, either publicly or privately, for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to become part of the Roman Catholic Church. Our only plan of action remains as it has been for the past year, as affirmed by our Diocesan Convention in November 2007. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth intends to realign with an orthodox Province as a constituent member of the worldwide Anglican Communion…

Wednesday morning update

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has Episcopal priests propose aligning Fort Worth diocese with Catholic church.

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Comments

With all the RCC parishes that are being abandoned, rotting into inner city decay, why on EARTH would the RC Diocese of Forth Worth want more legal and real estate problems?!?

Posted by: David G on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 11:21am BST

If Ft Worth is like most Episcopal dioceses, it has a significant number of parishioners who left the RC Church for any number of reasons--the most frequent being the desire to be remarried after divorce. The clergy may be eager to become Roman; have they asked their parishioners?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 11:33am BST

I swear it's like a migraine that just won't go away. Certainly, there is no humility shown by these clergy types from Ft Worth. This is not the first time some Episcopal clergy wanted to go to Rome, right? Well, why don't they just go! But they also want to take their wives with them and I doubt that Rome will like that. (Will these priests receive special treatment in in the Roman Church?)
I am also sure that Katie Sherrod is not alone - there are surely more Episcopalians like her - so how can a small group of priests decide for the members of their parishes?

Posted by: Jay Vos on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 11:51am BST

The idea of Rome receiving parishes as Anglican Use is not new. Should even a small portion of this come to pass, it will be interesting to see how property is handled. I doubt very highly Rome would receive an entire diocese or any extant congregation - especially given the Vatican's commitment to the Anglican Communion (and thus, its provinces) expressed as recently as Lambeth 2008.

If clergy and congregations are truly willing to become Anglican Use Roman Catholic parishes, they may have to make some very hard decisions about leaving their property and building or buying new churches first.

Posted by: Dirk Reinken on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 12:31pm BST

Can anyone imagine an outcome in which Jack Iker will settle for a solution in which he will no longer be a bishop (he's married & cannot be an RC bishop)? Think this report could indicate that Ft Worth does not, at this point, have a unified plan of action.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 12:38pm BST

In the Episcopal Church, the Fort Worth diocese is famously exceptional, being one of only 2 left that does not ordain women, or recognize the pastoral authority of women priests.

I agree with Lapinbizarre, I don't see any stampede to swim the Tiber in the future. Currently, +Iker is a big fish in a small pond. In Rome, he would be but laity, a mere peasant required to "pray, pay, and obey," just another face in the crowd.

And if a number of priests do decide to steer their boats into the becalmed waters of Rome, I very much doubt that many in their flocks would follow.

Posted by: counterlight on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 1:07pm BST

There's something astonishingly naive about this...

Posted by: kieran crichton on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 1:36pm BST

Dirk: "leaving their property and building or buying new churches first"

Good point, but remember, in the USA, a lot of RC parishes are either consolidating or just being boarded up by their bishops. The financial support of parishioners, as well as attendance (I would imagine), is dwindling. With the Episcopalian clergy taking their flocks with them, will the good RC bishop of Ft Worth expect them to bring their dollars, too?

Posted by: Jay Vos on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 2:02pm BST

They are calling for full communion not membership.

The Episcopal denomination and now the Church of England have killed any real ecumenical rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church with their secularly driven un-scriptural innovations. The diocese of Fort Worth is in the process of re-founding itself. Its new base, built on stone not shifting cultural sand, will be in a good position to be in true ecumenical partnership relation our Roman Catholic brethren. Not a bad thing at all but there will be much gnashing of teeth of the liberal innovationists, none the less.

Posted by: robroy on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 4:00pm BST

This is fascinating and very exciting for those of us who are being slowly expelled from the Church of England over the question of women's ordination. It will be very interesting to see how this, and the TAC request, pans out...

Further reflections available at http://massinformation.blogspot.com

Posted by: Gregory of Langres on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 4:05pm BST

Jay - I have no clue on how particulars would work out, but I doubt very seriously the Roman hierarchy would do anything that puts them into a legal battle with TEC.

Now, it would be interesting to see if they allow any converting clergy and those members of their flock who wish to convert to take use of a closed RC church (probably consolidating Anglican conregations as well since the typical RC parish is much larger than most Anglican parishes in the US). However, it could also be that the RC diocese in Forth Worth is not closing parishes, but thriving like their non-Roman counterparts in the Bible Belt.

+Iker's position will be the most interesting of all. The Anglican use parishes would definitely come under the jurisdiction of the local RC bishop, not +Iker as some sort of Auxiliary for Anglican Use. I'm sure they could find him an Assistant Pastor position in some Roman parish, though. :)

(I don't know if this is true throughout, but in Rhode Island, I think the policy was that married Episcopal clergy converting to the RCC could not be pastors of congregations, but assistants only. This would obviously be different for a whole Anglican Use situation.)

Posted by: Dirk Reinken on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 4:22pm BST

It will never happen. Why would Rome want priests and parishes that are not loyal to their denomination?

Posted by: deaconhenderson on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 5:18pm BST

Robroy and Gregory:

So, to avoid being contaminated with gay and/or female cooties, you would give up the autonomy of a national church, five centuries of Anglican tradition that puts reason on a par with scripture and authority, and pledge fealty to the Bishop of Rome?

One wonders if you were ever really Anglican at all.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 6:31pm BST

Well, perhaps indeed they are thinking of some sort of uniate status, not unlike the requests of the Traditional Anglican Communion - a body that would, by the way, welcome this group wholesale. Perhaps that's why they have emphasized their ordered credentials.

No, I cannot imagine that the Holy See will give Cardinal Kasper instructions to call us to remain together, and then make a move that would simply create a new splinter. I don't think they're naive. I fear they're delusional.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 7:21pm BST

These priests want to become part of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather than simply resigning their current positions and seeking conversion to Rome (which would be the ethical thing to do), starting over as lay people with no ecclesiastical authority, divorcing their wives, and working their way up the Roman hierarchical ladder, they want to take the entire diocese and their current priestly postion with them, lock stock, and barrel. The want to eat their cake and have it to.
Notice, they want to take the entire diocese, including all parishioners. Without the parishioners having any say. After all, to give the parishioners a say would be democratic, and these priests sneer at democracy in the Church.

Posted by: peterpi on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 9:14pm BST

Thank you, Bishop Iker, for answering my rhetorical question.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 9:44pm BST

Just a distraction.

Back to reality: the soon-coming rebuilding of the Diocese of Fort Worth---under a new bishop, ala San Joaquin. Lord have mercy---God bless TEC!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 10:18pm BST

Hurrah....Rome is the Eternal city not Buenos Aires and the Chingford slinger.

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 10:21pm BST

But didn't Bishop Iker sign the GAFCON Declaration affirming the 39 articles?

Still No list of signatories ...5 weeks after GAFCON!

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 11:09pm BST

Who speaks for those who do not want to leave the Episcopal Church?

Perhaps alternative oversight will be allowed?

Nat

Posted by: Nat on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 11:49pm BST

"...divorcing their wives, and working their way up the Roman hierarchical ladder..."

If that's their plan they've got rather a rude awaking in store. We married papists are supposed to stay that way. I don't know if we're any better at it than others, but that's the norm, and, so far as I know one isn't allowed to divorce oneself into celibate orders.

(Puts me in mind of poor Rex Montram in Brideshead Revisited, learning at the last minute that his almost-forgotten Protestant marriage still counts. Did that scene survive in the new film, I wonder?)

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 1:58am BST

Well Iker and the lot may fancy themselves more catholic than the pope, as it were. Just as Schofield fancied himself the sort of transformed model modern queer man, better than everybody else.

Behind, beneath - what lurks?

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 2:40am BST

"...divorcing their wives, and working their way up the Roman hierarchical ladder..."

While not cheering them on, I would point out that no divorce would be needed or wanted. Married Anglican clergy are taken on by Rome all the time. Indeed a current theory about why Rome didn't want to take on all those conservative C of E priests en masse who oppose women's ordination is that they're mostly married, and married former Anglican clergy are quite popular in English Catholic parishes -- thus chipping away at Roman clerical celibacy.

In the Roman Catholic Church, celibacy is not a hindrance to being a priest per se. Uniate Catholic clergy are allowed to marry, for example. It is only those who become priests according to the Latin Rite who must swear an oath of celibacy as a condition of receiving orders.

Perhaps the best-known example of a married Anglican becoming a Roman Catholic priest and going up the hierarchy would be Graham Leonard, who was an Anglican bishop but is now a Papal Chaplain, Monsignor and Prelate of Honor.

Just $0.02.

Posted by: Walsingham on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 12:59pm BST

"We married papists are supposed to stay that way."

But surely a marriage carried out by an Anglican is no marriage at all in the eys of Rome. You can't break a sacrament that doesn't exist, so "divorce" in this instance is no divorce at all.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 2:17pm BST

"But surely a marriage carried out by an Anglican is no marriage at all in the eyes of Rome."

Ford, a marriage presided over by a Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptist is sacramental in the eyes of Rome so long as the husband and wife have both been baptized.

Again, I would recommend the tragicomic tale of Rex and Lady Julia Flyte from Brideshead Revisited.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 2:59pm BST

"Ford, a marriage presided over by a Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptist is sacramental in the eyes of Rome so long as the husband and wife have both been baptized."

News to me. I live in a place where Prot/Mick tensions ran high for generations, though now mostly relegated to the past, and dealt with more by comedy than anger. Think Ulster with less bloodshed. The prevailing attitude of the Church here is that the children of a "marriage" conducted solely by a Protestant minister would be illigetimate. This was once clearly spoken. Now, in the interests of ecumenism and not offending one's fellow Christians, the idea is spoken in much more sensitive terms, as more a matter of law and definition than condemnation of Prots. It is certainly the case that such a marriage cannot be sacramental, since the clergiman is not a priest. Is this a cultural interpretation or something else? Seriously, not arguing here, but I have never run into the idea that Rome would consider a Protestant marriage on the level of a Roman marriage. In joking with my admittedly lapsed Roman friends, the issue of my "illegitmacy" often comes up:-) In times past, people married in a Protestant ceremony would have had to be married again by a priest before being admitted to communion.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 3:39pm BST

Robroy says: "The Episcopal denomination and now the Church of England have killed any real ecumenical rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church with their secularly driven un-scriptural innovations."

Ummm...I don't know how long Robroy has been around, but I have been around long enough to remember when there actually WAS a real ecumenical rapprochement with the RCC. And as far as "secularly driven un-scriptural innovations" -- doesn't Rome already own the franchise on that?

Posted by: WSJM on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 4:29pm BST

@Ford Elms:

The Roman Catholic canons on marriage are complex and hard to follow, but in the case of two Protestants marrying with a Protestant preacher officiating -- or even a civil marriage -- then yes, it is considered a sacramental marriage and hence binding.

To make things bizarre, if a Catholic marries a Protestant with a Protestant preacher officiating, *then* it doesn't count. (Please don't ask. It makes my brain hurt trying to explain something so daft.)

Posted by: Walsingham on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 6:12pm BST

Ford, it can get complicated, and one of the complicating factors is that, since the Council of Trent, Catholics have been obliged, except in limited circumstances, to marry publicly, and to have the marriage witnessed by the clergy, in order for the marriage to be valid. So, in a sense, the Church requires more formality for a Catholic wedding to be sacramental than for a Protestant one.

If you grew up around Catholic/Protestant hostility, there is also the factor that "mixed marriages" in the Catholic Church require a dispensation. Sometimes that becomes a point of dissention, though that's not typically the case in most places. (When I married I was Protestant; the priest at our first meeting opened the top drawer on this desk and pulled out the dispensation form from a stack of them, and that was about it).

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 8:06pm BST

T"o make things bizarre, if a Catholic marries a Protestant with a Protestant preacher officiating, *then* it doesn't count. (Please don't ask. It makes my brain hurt trying to explain something so daft.)"

Hence my confusion. It never occurred to me to think what Rome thought about two black prots getting hitched. I just assumed it was "no priest, no marriage". WOuld they think it sacramental, though? Other than baptism, would Rome consider any Protestant act sacramental?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 8:21pm BST

Gregory of Langres writes: "This is fascinating and very exciting for those of us who are being slowly expelled from the Church of England over the question of women's ordination." He then refers us to his website,
http://massinformation.blogspot.com.
A very nicely done and interesting site. But Gregory, my brother, you have obviously been expelling yourself from the Church of England for a long time.

I wondered to myself, "Why don't these folks just swim on over?" And then it struck me: they would rather disobey the Archbishop of Canterbury than have to obey the Bishop of Rome.

Posted by: WSJM on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 10:58pm BST

I can't see the vast majority of the Fort Worth clergy giving up their fat salaries, pension scheme and Rectories.....maybe a handful may come over.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 11:17pm BST

Dr. Ford Elms wrote:
I just assumed it was "no priest, no marriage".
Wow! Considering paramount significance of marriage in society in general and the present disproportionate importance of gay marriage in the Anglican Communion, I find this "assumption" to display a shocking ignorance of the sacrament of marriage as it has been traditionally understood in Western Christianity. Perhaps it is widespread. Having such an erroneous view of marriage will afford little defense against any other mistaken concepts of what marriage is (or isn't).
The mutual consent given between a man and a woman to try to come together to have children and raise a family is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church. Marriage isn't made by priests or sex or children but by the free consent of the man and woman -- "matrimonium non facit coitus, sed voluntas."

Posted by: Ley Druid on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 6:22am BST

One small quibble, a marriage between a Roman and a non-Roman can be sacramentally valid (according to Rome) without being presided over by a cleric of the Roman obedience. The requirement (as I understand it) is that a Roman cleric be present in an official capacity.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 6:48am BST

Before in Europe, that is from the Tridentine “Decretum Tametsi”, marriages were performed by a Magistrate in all Roman catholic countries. Not by a Priest.

This only changed in 1908 (ideologically) and 1918 (new edition of Codex Iuris Canonici: the Roman canon law), when Rome made “churchy” the Neo Humanist/Calvinist Renaissance (secular) Idea of a particular “moment in time”, when unmarried Status c h a n g e d into married Status.

This changed back in Vatican II, when the Consensus; the “will of the parties”, originally expressed in the Civil Law betrothal, was (partially) restored – and marriage became a sacramental act of the Parties (now understood as the Pair, not their pater familias, families) themselves (this is now the official reason given for banning divorce – the Pair have m a d e the marriage themselves ;=)

Today Sweden and Finland are the only ones having an absolute form of the “forma tridentina” (from 1608)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 9:39am BST

Please yourself, but things changed in Triento in 1563 and in 1908 (following the “Culture Wars” in Prussia and Hungary in the 1870ies and 1890ies, and also in 1918. All this was reversed, however, in Vatican II.

In Sweden, however, the Priest in Byzantine fashion still acts as the Agent of the Neo Humanist = Neo Platonist State (Majestas), he/she is not a witness only as in the rest of the West, but performs (since 1614/1693/1734/1915) in an absolute sense, the marriage. The Consensus only serves as a precondition amongst others.

All other jurisdictions since the Renaissance have mixtures of the two; Consensus or State Act.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 9:56am BST

"Considering paramount significance of marriage in society in general and the present disproportionate importance of gay marriage in the Anglican Communion, I find this "assumption" to display a shocking ignorance of the sacrament of marriage as it has been traditionally understood in Western Christianity."

Ley Druid, this is the prevailing assumption I get from speaking to RCs. Frankly, I don't particularly care, this belongs back in the past that we now laugh about and poke fun at. None of my RC friends would take seriously the idea that my parents aren't married, and would see it as some sort of "official" thing that really was a bit irrelevant to them today. But I think most Romans around here, especially those of a certain vintage, would be surprised at the idea that someone married by a Methodist preacher was actually considered married in the eyes of Rome.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 12:01pm BST

Ain't gonna happen. Yes, there are already former-Anglican married priests who were reordained in the Roman church, and there are Anglican-use parishes. But Rome is not going to want to absorb large numbers of married Anglican clergy - makes it that much harder to continue to insist on clerical celibacy for Latin-rite priests. And liberal Roman Catholics (not an insignificant number in North America) are not going to be interested in their church absorbing significant numbers of very conservative clergy. Finally, there are just not that many of the laity who will follow.

Posted by: John, Michigan on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 5:24pm BST

"Marriage isn't made by priests or sex or children but by the free consent of the man and woman -- "matrimonium non facit coitus, sed voluntas." - Posted by Ley Druid

Which is why, LD, "free consent" being, um, freely given by same-sex couples, there ought to be no bar to their *marriage* [NB: NOT "gay marriage"---just the SAME good ol' marriage which the Church has offered, in one form or another {Goran!}, to opposite-sex couples]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 14 August 2008 at 10:14pm BST

Göran,
I don't know how the sacrament of marriage is understood in the East, but I recognize that it may be different than in the West. The latter is expressed at Florence (1439) "The efficient cause of matrimony is usually mutual consent..." and even Trent (24th session), which sought to limit abuses of clandestine marriages and the nefarious consequences thereof states that "...clandestine marriages, made with the free consent of the contracting parties, are valid and true marriages"! As you note, it was also stated at Vatican II.

Ford Elms,
Personally, I'd like to strive for a middle ground for The Living Church somewhere between idolizing history and relegating it to "back in the past that we now laugh about and poke fun at".
Do you think that anyone imagines (or ever imagined) that a Catholic priest would cavalierly marry a polygamist to yet another spouse because the previous ceremony had been administered by a protestant?

JCF,
By all means, afford to same-sex couples all the benefits of marriage that you would like. But the question remains, exactly what are they consenting to? It isn't a heterosexual relationship, which is the source of all of our lives and the lives of all those who will come after us.

Posted by: Ley Druid on Friday, 15 August 2008 at 5:40am BST

Ley Driud,

In the Eastern State church a consensus ceremony in church (involving the heathen crowns) was valid in Law from 740, and mandatory from 893, making the Priest sole performer absolutus, that is; no Priest, no marriage.

The reason for the legally valid Marriage ceremony (East and West) is to d e f i n e who will take the i n h e r i t a n c e.

Different forms (of marriage) sorted the heirs, giving different legal rights alternately no rights to the Inheritance. This was generally based on the social Status, i.e. birth of the mother, not the father (Spouse, wife, concubine).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 15 August 2008 at 8:35am BST

"relegating it to "back in the past that we now laugh about and poke fun at"."

Ley Druid, I live in a place that imported the Ulster style Prot/Catholic hatreds. There was even bloodshed here over religion, albeit not much. It's still divisive, though far far less than it used to be. In living memory, if one saw someone not one's coreligionist walking up the street, one crossed to the other side. In living memory, there were businesses on Water Street where your religion determined whether or not you even applied to work there, and it wasn't "No Irish need apply", there were Catholic owned businesses where Prots didn't work either. It even shaped the structure of our government, with electoral districts being allotted multiple members to balance out the religious makeup of their populations. Roughly a decade ago we got rid of a wasteful and descriminatory denominational education system, by referendum, well two actually, Newfoundlanders can't do anything on one referendum. And now, we laugh about that past, we mock the old hatreds and bigotries. I think that's a lot better than killing one another over them. What better way to deal with that kind of past than to laugh at how silly it all was? Where's the middle ground where we accept sectarian violence and hatred?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 15 August 2008 at 12:45pm BST

Ley Druid,

From your remarks (above) I presume you, yourself, are a Roman Catholic; believing that marriage is principally for the purpose of procreation. This is so obviously the current understanding of a particular R.C. priest recently, in Italy, who refused to marry a couple because one of the partners was disabled, and presumably unable to generate children!

What a travesty of the understanding of faithful committed partnership - even between two people of the opposite sex. No wonder Rome (officially) has problems with same-sex relationships

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 18 August 2008 at 10:14am BST

Father Ron
does the RC church also refuse to marry post menopausal couples? And is this all of this common practice or left to the individual priest?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 18 August 2008 at 1:52pm BST

Father Ron Smith,
You are correct, I am a Roman Catholic.
Faithful committed partnerships are great and should be especially celebrated. I think we can agree on that.
The question, I guess, is whether heterosexual sex is great and should be especially celebrated. The Church has alway taught that it is. I bet the overwhelming pastoral decision is to give the benefit of doubt, assume that a couple can have sex and permit marriage. However, if two people cannot have heterosexual sex then it doesn't make any sense to celebrate their heterosexual sex, does it?

Posted by: Ley Druid on Tuesday, 19 August 2008 at 4:46am BST

Ley
Your argument depends on the assumption that it is heterosexual sex that is being celebrated when a marriage is conducted.
I thought it is a whole relationship of which sex is just one element.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 19 August 2008 at 8:51am BST
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