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All things vegan

A Xt3 Member asked at 8:29am on October 29th 2017
Dear Father,

I am hoping all is well with you. Can you please kindly help me understand if being vegan is a sin? I had not consume animal flesh or animal products for eight years. How could it become a sin? I do, however find peace being Catholic. But I do find myself questioning why many in our church consume meat. There are scientific studies supporting that consuming animal products cause diseases in Western-based society. I am aware that Christ said that what is more important is what goes into the mouth and not what comes out of it. My family eats meat and dairy products. But they support my dietary practice.

Thank you for your time reading this.

Joe

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Hi Joe, in Church history, many women and men religious who lived in monasteries refrained from eating meat for most if not all of the year - there are manuscripts of the Gospels in Latin by Irish monks copied around the 700s AD, and sometimes they wrote notes on the side. These notes in Old Irish included poems about their cats, and at least one monk complained that he was tired of eating salmon all the time! There's nothing sinful in being a vegan - obviously if your doctor felt your diet was unbalanced and recommended a change, I'd suggest you follow that advice.

Regarding why most Catholics eat meat, I'd ask you to check the famous vision St Peter has in chapter 11 of the Acts of the Apostles. He was commanded by a voice to 'kill and eat' from the animals contained in a great sheet he saw lowered from heaven. He refused because some of the animals (including beasts of prey, reptiles and birds) were unclean in Jewish law. Then Peter was told from heaven: 'What God has cleansed you must not call common [or unclean].' In other words, Christians weren't bound by the Jewish dietary laws.

And St Paul has a similar freedom, this time in allowing Christians to eat food (we can presume meat is meant here) sacrificed to idols - because not all of it was retained in the pagan temple, but sold more cheaply on the market (see 1 Cor 8 and 10). So, you're free as a Catholic to be vegan and others, like those in your family, are free not to be. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Does Revelation 12 symbolising the rapture?

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:38am on September 3rd 2017
In the passage Revelation 12, it states this:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her childthe moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who "will rule all the nations with an iron scepter." And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angelsfought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

There have been articles about this signalising the rapture on September 23, as that is the day that the stars align in such way. However, I may be wrong, as God says that we shouldn't obey the star signs.

Thanks again and God Bless!

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Hi Bryce, I think this Apocalypse text isn't too difficult, the sign from heaven of the Woman (both spouse and mother) clothed in the sun (meaning in divine presence: see Apoc 1:16), with the moon under her feet indicating she has power over time and history (since the moon was traditionally the measure of time), and the crown of 12 stars probably referring to the Church founded on the 12 Apostles, with the back reference to the 12 tribes of Israel.

The Woman and the Dragon recall Genesis, 3;15, with its prophecy that she will crush the serpent under her feet. Her Son is identified with the Messiah, Christ. The verb describing birth is continuous, referring to her continual struggle with the devil, so that Mary here refers to the Church's painful struggle in giving birth to Christ continuously throughout history. While the word 'taken up' can be translated in the Latin form expressed by the English 'rapture,' there's no intention in the Apocalypse to refer to a particular date, nor would it depend on any alignment of stars, since the verses after this quote, 10 - 12 are a liturgical interval explaining the battle between God and Satan: 'Now the salvation and power and the kingdom of God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down...' There's no mention of the beliefs associated with the 'rapture' - of the elect being swept up to heaven before the final tribulation on any particular date. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Does God hate me

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:23am on August 31st 2017
Hello Fr. Brendan, I'm not sure how to start, in order to understand, I'll have to tell you about my childhood. I grew up in a poor Catholic Christian family. My dad wasn't too religious though, and didn't even want us to go to church. As a matter of fact, I had to take baptism doctrine lessons in secret and I was baptised when he had gone out of town. He was abusive especially to our religion. And even though he did all that, I always had that energy not to let that get in my way of serving God. I became a mass servant, and was even thinking of becoming a priest. And during this period, weirdly everything was fine. I had good grades, always at the top of my class, I went for confession almost every 2 months. Until I reached the university and it all changed. I come from a very poor background so I had to work to pay for my tuition, then I got a scholarship to study abroad. That's when things started going downhill. I stopped going to church, I started questioning the existence of God, why there was a crucifix of Jesus Christ in church, why we had to pray, if God loved us so much then why was there war, hunger, why my family was so poor (and this also coincided with when I became a volunteer helping the Syrian refugee kids, and saw how some of them had lost everything) etc, my grades became a mess, financial I'm barely surviving . In short, I'm lost, and unhappy. I have though once or twice of just ending it all. So my questions are, is God punishing me? I mean does he hate me for questioning or doubting his existence and love for mankind in the first place? And how do I pray for his mercy on me.
Thank you so much in advance for your response.

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Hi Becklie, just last year I wrote a little book called Where is God in Suffering?, and there's no way God hates you for questioning his existence or his love for mankind in the light of the various sufferings, natural, physical, moral and spiritual, that come our way. I found that while we could understand all sorts of natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis, are part of the way a rocky planet like our Earth is made, while the physical sufferings caused by various illnesses and disabilities are inevitable results of creatures with bodies like ours. If we wanted to get rid of a lot of physical disasters, we'd probably have to get rid of gravity - but that would mean not having a material universe at all. And to avoid every kind of physical breakdown, we'd have to do without any living things more complicated than bacteria.

The hardest disorders to understand are the moral ones, those due to the evil actions or omissions of human beings or of the evil spirits we call devils. Again, if we wanted to put an absolute end to these, God would have to have stopped creation at the animal level, and not created humans or angels, since we and they are endowed with free will. In my little book, since I can't say I've had any major suffering in my life, I drew on people like Blessed Chiara Badano, who transformed her experience of dying from an extremely painful form of bone cancer into an ever deepening love of Jesus - one of her phrases I love is, 'if you want it, Jesus, I want it too.' Then there's the experience of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman imprisoned by the Nazis in Holland, then sent to her death in Auschwitz.

In one of her last letters to friends outside Westerbork concentration camp:

'All I wanted to say is this: The misery here is quite terrible; and yet, late at night when the day has slunk away into the depths behind me, I often walk with a spring in my step along the barbed wire. And then, time and again, it soars straight from my heart - I can't help it, that's just the way it is, like some elementary force - the feeling that life is glorious and magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new world. Against every new outrage and every fresh horror, we shall put up one more piece of love and goodness, drawing strength from within ourselves. We may suffer, but we must not succumb. And if we should survive unhurt in body and soul, but above all in soul, without bitterness and without hatred, then we shall have a right to a say after the war' (July 3, 1943).

And a month or so later, a few months before she was murdered, she could say:

'My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, O God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer' (August 18, 1943).

I'm not saying at all that I'd have the spiritual strength and openness to God shown by Etty Hillesum and Chiara Badano, but I think what Jesus went through while it isn't an answer to the mystery of suffering and evil in our lives, it is what Pope Francis calls 'a path.' More important than any crucifix in a church are people like them who are living crucifixes, who are - again with more courage than I might have - following Jesus' invitation to take up their crosses every day and follow him. So he certainly doesn't hate you for asking those big questions we all have to ask. And there's no prayer we repeat more often than 'Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lamb of God... have mercy on us.' Pope Francis said a few days after being elected Pope, that 'God never gets tired of giving us mercy, but we can get tired of asking for it.' I've no doubt that God loves you immensely, and is dying - as he does at Mass every day - to pour out his mercy and support to you in all your great difficulties. I'll certainly be adding you to my prayers every day that your studies will go better and that your financial situation will improve. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Will the upcoming solar eclipse signal nibiru/Planet X's arrival? Is David Meade credibel

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:17am on August 10th 2017
Hi again, I just wanted some more information on Nibiru/Planet X, so I can spread the word of its falseness. So i would like to ask if the upcoming solar eclipse will signal the arrival of. Nibiru/Planet X. I've read an article (actually several) that claim this, from evidence of Christian numerologist, David Meade. He says it will arrive in October and that the upcoming solar eclipse will be its signal. Is this true? Is david Meade credible? Thanks! God bless!

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Hi Bryce, a lady called Nancy Lieder invented the notion of Planet X (others called it Niburu) in 1995, making various prophecies of the Earth being destroyed on various dates, like September 2003, with other followers moving the date to December 21st, 2012. I've only had time to check out a few of David Meade's proclamations, but more than enough to put himself and Nancy Lieder into a long history of (often) American based prophets of the End time - Harold Camping, who died in 2011 kept shifting the date, for example on September 6 th, 1994, then May 21st 2011, then October 21st 2011. He made millions of dollars from easily fooled donors, and died peacefully at 92 years old on December 15th, 2013.

If you check out the internet, you'll find the one thing that never seems to end is End Time Prophecies! In answer to your question, David Meade isn't the least credible, no more than Planet X/Nibiru - they don't exist. Regarding the upcoming total solar eclipse in the US on Monday August 21st (the first total eclipse from the Pacific to the Atlantic across the US since 1918), all that means is that the moon eclipses the sun - there's no evidence that it signals anything else.

As I said in a previous answer, much better to follow Jesus, and prepare for your own end, whenever that comes, by the way you live each day, surrounded by neighbours to love. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is Nibiru/Planet x real?

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:25am on July 27th 2017
Hi, I've seen a number of YouTube videos regarding Planet X/Nibiru. They say it's a planet in the bible that will "destroy our planet". Is this true? Does it state that we will be killed? I am aware that the day of Armageddon isn't actually said, but I would like to know if this hypothesised Planet is or isn't real.

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Hi Bryce, there's certainly no such planet mentioned in the Bible, nor does Planet X exist. In recent years astronomers are discovering planets circulating stars which are so far from us that even getting to our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, at the speed of our fastest rocket, would take 73,000 years!

Jesus tells us there will be an end of time with the Last Judgment, but for each of us, at our own moment of death what's called 'the particular judgment' will take place, when each of us will be examined. The great thing is that unlike school or college exams, we're told the questions we'll be asked long before that exam - basically it's in Matthew 25: 31-46, where Jesus will say,'whatever you did to the least of your brothers (and sisters) you did it to me.' So the way to prepare for that most important moment in our eternal life, is to learn those questions off by heart and start putting them into action straightaway. Then we're ready for our real journey, not into space, but beyond space and time, into the eternal life of friendship with the Trinity, with Mary and with all the Saints. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Litany of our Lady

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:29pm on May 9th 2017
Hello Father
Am a leader of the catholic community at my college and one of the students asked me to explain statements such as "tower of ivory","house of gold" etc but I could figure out the answer. Help me

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Hi Ibwalingat, as I'm away from my books and other sources just now I'll do my best with your question: as far as I remember, all these phrases are used in the Litany of Loreto, so if you check that out on the internet you'll get some information on its history. But I think 'tower of ivory' is a name given to Israel, as the Spouse in the Song of Songs--again, you can check that out for yourself. 'House of Gold' may derive from one of Nero's palaces in Rome, near the Colosseum,which in Latin was called 'Domus Aurea.' Obviously, all these titles of Mary express the deep devotion to Mary, where just about every positive thing they could think of, they applied to her. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Animals and evil

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:50am on September 24th 2016
Hi Fr,



A skepical friend asked me a while ago that if God is good, why is nature so savage? And in particular, why do animals kill each other?
At first I said that animals don't have souls; they're not a permanent part of creation. Humans should be good stewards and not cruel towards creation, but what animals do to each other is not important. I also recalled an OT verse promising that when creation is finally reconciled, the lion will lay down with the lamb.

But this last point, aside from the symbolism, presupposes that it isn't good for the lion to eat the lamb in the first place. That it must be the result of evil entering the world and not God's original plan. So here comes my question; we know that dinosaurs, who ate each other, predate man. But we hold that sin entered the world through the choice of Adam and Eve, which led to a monumental breakdown of God's good order. So were animals evil before man was? Did God permit some animals like the serpent to be evil before man was? If so, why? How do we reconcile our understanding of original sin with the obvious brutality of evolution and the time before man?



Sorry if this is somewhat trivial/academic. Just a thought :)

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Hi Joe, let's go back to something even more basic than animal predation: gravity. It's an inbuilt requirement of the universe. Without it, the galaxies, including the Milky Way and our solar system, couldn't exist. It also keeps our rocky planet, where the only animals we know of up to now exist rotating the sun. And our earth itself depends on a system of tectonic plates, which give rise to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes - all disturbing events which cause huge loss of life. Like the mass extinction of 3/4 of all animal and plant species 66 million years ago in what's sometimes called the K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) Event. Nor is it just animals that kill each other, for nearly 2 billion years, the only living things on earth were bacteria, which survive by dining out on each other - and none of the later animals or plants could have existed without that bacterial and later, algal, transformation of earth's atmosphere into the breathable air we now have.

Just as we couldn't have our universe without gravity and all the falls and terrible tumbles it gives rise to, neither could any of the more complex mammals exist without plants and smaller animals in their diet - if you want polar bears, you've got to let them eat salmon (or the occasional nature conservationist). Let's accept, as Job does in the final chapters of his book, that God's plan includes a whole range of creatures whose interaction goes beyond our understanding.

But that doesn't mean animals are evil - there's an Irish saying, 'briseann an dulra tri suilibh an chait' - 'nature breaks through the cat's eyes': that is, each animal acts according to its nature. We can say that all animals are still in the Garden of Eden, since, without rational souls, they're incapable of sin. Still, they can indirectly suffer the effects of sin on human beings, when we treat them with cruelty. St Francis had the right idea in his 'Canticle of the Creatures,' where he saw animals as in some sense our sisters and brothers, since we're all creatures of the One Father. I've no idea how it could come about, but I've always been happy to think of paradise as a place where there'll be lots of animals too, but, as you say, no longer preying on each other as they have to do in order to survive here on earth. Very best, Fr Brendan
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When does our soul leave our body?

A Xt3 Member asked at 5:04am on July 23rd 2016
Father,

I thought of this question was because of organ donation. I have been undecided on whether to become an organ donor or not and have been doing a lot of research into the Church's stance.The Church's current stance is that it is okay if certain conditions are met, namely, that the person is absolutely and unquestionably dead.

From a medical standpoint, the current consensus is that the person is dead once they are determined to be brain dead. But does the soul truly leave the body when we become brain dead? A medical professional (and likely atheist) would say, yes, that our brain is scientifically all that makes us, us. But as Christians we are told that life is a sacred gift, and that the whole of our bodies need to be cherished, respected, and protected. To me, it seems that harvesting a brain dead person's organs with the heart still beating and the organs being kept "fresh" goes directly against the Church's stance that the person must be unequivocally dead; what's most important to the Church and God is that our soul has left the body.

But don't our souls ENVELOP our bodies, they are not constrained to one body part (the brain). I'm just confused that we are told that the whole of our body is sacred, but then magically when just one part isn't working anymore, somehow the rest of the body is up for grabs.

I want to make the right choice in the eyes of the Church. I know that right now, the Church has basically given the okay on all post-mortem organ donation, a conclusion that it came to after several deliberations. I think it very well could be up for further deliberation and that the Church could possibly not be 100% correct on this.

God Bless,

Richard

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Hi Richard,

This isn't an easy question to answer, since there are two opposing views held by Catholics.

For starters, the Church itself isn't competent to decide on what's both a medical and philosophic issue, the moment of death. Pope John Paul noted that 'With regard to the parameters used today for ascertaining death ... the Church does not make technical decisions. She limits herself to the Gospel duty of comparing the data offered by medical science with the Christian understanding of the unity of the person, bringing out the similarities and the possible conflicts capable of endangering respect for human dignity.'

In an organ donation conference held in 2000 in Rome, he said: that 'the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology.'

With perhaps a caution gained from greater awareness of difficulties with the use of 'brain death' as a criterion for death, Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to a 2008 conference on organ donation in Rome said:

It is helpful to remember, however, that the individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere [from a dead body], which, moreover, possesses its own dignity that must be respected. In these years science has accomplished further progress in certifying the death of the patient. It is good, therefore, that the results attained receive the consent of the entire scientific community in order to further research for solutions that give certainty to all. In an area such as this, in fact, there cannot be the slightest suspicion of arbitration [arbitrariness] and where certainty has not been attained the principle of precaution [caution] must prevail.

In fact, highly respected philosophers and jurists like John Finnis, Robert Spaemann, Josef Seifert and Christian Brugger, along with Catholic medical doctors like Paul Byrne and Alan Shewmon argue against accepting 'brain death' as an adequate criterion for death. Seifert notes for example that

During the first six weeks of pregnancy our body lives without a brain and hence our human life does not begin with the human brain. Certainly, the embryo is alive but his life is not bound to the functioning of his brain. Therefore, the thesis of brain death being the actual death of the person which ties human life inseparably to a functioning brain goes against this biological fact: the development of the embryonic body proves that the brain cannot be simply the seat of the human person's life or soul.

And there have been so many instances of people who were regarded as in an irreversible coma recovering consciousness sometimes years later to make us uncertain when exactly a person who appears to be 'brain dead' really is dead.

Registered Nurse Nancy Valko, in her very informative article notes that there are many alternatives to the organ-harvesting of brain dead bodies are becoming available. For example, 'Tissues like corneas, heart valves, bone, and skin are not dependent on immediate harvesting after determination of death.' She mentions a relative 'in desperate need of a kidney transplant, the most common transplant.' Her relative 'has studied the issue and told her doctors that she wants a living donor. Living donors are generous family members, friends, or even strangers who willingly offer one of their two kidneys for transplant after testing for compatibility.' Her decision 'was based not only on ethical concerns about brain death and non-heart beating organ donation but also on the facts that organ availability is greater with living donor kidneys and that such kidneys last almost twice as long as cadaver kidneys and work immediately.'

Then there are the new techniques of cultivating adult stem-cells from the patient's own body-so without the risk of rejection. Recently, Australian medics have grown a functioning kidney from human skin-cells. So that in the near future, organ harvesting may become by-passed by these new developments.

A moral philosopher who was a colleague of mine for many years and has served on the Pontifical Academy for Life has told me she would never sign anything involving organ donations because of the lack of attention to the moral issues surrounding when a donor has actually died.

Very best, Fr Brendan

[I've checked out these sources for your question: essays by Seifert and Spaemann in Finis Vitae: Is 'Brain Death' True Death? (Oregon, Ohio: Life Guard Foundation, 2009); and on the net: Nancy Valko, RN, 'Brain Death and Catholic Teaching,' Women for Faith & Family Vol. XXIX, No. 1 Pentecost 2014; Charles Camosy, 'Is There an Official Roman Catholic Teaching on Brain Death? - A Response to Yesterday's Claim from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Current Events, May 4, 2011; Jay Boyd, 'Brain Death and Organ Donation,' Catholic Stand, July 18, 2013; Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section: 2296; and from the other perspective: 'Why the Concept of Brain Death is Valid as a Definition of Death: Statement by Neurologists and Others and Response to Objections,' in The Signs of Death, Proceedings of the Working Group of 11-12 September 2006, Scripta Varia 110, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Vatican City 2007.
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Doctor

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:44pm on April 25th 2016
Should Catholics find a Catholic doctor or is it ok to go to any doctor as long as there are no moral situations.

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Hi Dennis, it's only if there were moral questions that affected your health treatment that you'd be advised to consult a doctor who was a believing and practising Catholic. Normally speaking, any good doctor would be fine, my own doctor happens to be Jewish.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Antipsychotics

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:38am on April 10th 2016
I have been to the GP and he feels I may have bipolar with hallucinations. I believe in ecstasy from church discernment of spirits and demons but how is this reconciled with Psychiatry my question is if I am prescribed antipsychotics is it ok to take them because all of the saints who had visions etc probably would have been prescribed antipsychotics if seen by a psychiatrist don't you think?

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Hi Samantha, if a psychiatrist isn't also a believer, there's certainly a problem: that they mightn't be able to discern the difference between a hallucination and a genuine visionary experience such as some of the saints have. Then their lack of awareness isn't due to a psychiatric insight but to an imposition of a too narrow a grasp of the spiritual horizons of a human being as transcending this world.

But there are certainly Christian psychiatrists - or even reasonably open non-Christian psychiatrists - who should be able to distinguish the difference between a genuine religious experience and a psychiatric hallucination. Still, only a small number of saints had visions, and while St Paul lists a whole pile of gifts that the first Christians received from God, including prophecy, miracle-working, healing, speaking in tongues, and so on, he goes on to show 'a still more excellent way: ...If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love... I am nothing.' (See 1 Cor 12:28 - 13:13). St Therse of Lisieux found in St Paul's great hymn to love - as have most saints - the fulfilment of the Gospel. So I wouldn't be inclined to put too much emphasis on ecstasies or visions.

Regarding taking prescribed antipsychotic drugs, it all depends on whether you trust your GP or psychiatrist, and if so, I can't see what would be wrong with taking them.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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