Christian Persecution and Blood Red Shoes

Pope Francis is the Pope. If he decides to go for all the pomp his office allows ….

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That’s fine with me.

Because he’s the Pope.

If on the other hand, he decides to wear sandals and walk rather than ride – or some black-shoed something in between the two extremes — that, too, would be ok with me.

Because he’s the pope.

It appears that most Catholics are like me: Over the moon about our new papa. But, you can’t please everyone. Human beings are too contrary for that to ever happen in this world. In their displeasure with our Holy Father, some of these displeased ones have fixated on one thing: The color of his shoes.

The red of the red shoes refers to the blood of the martyrs they tell us.

I’ve been thinking about this for days, largely because I don’t understand why we need to see red shoes to think about the blood of the martyrs. The blood of people dying for Christ is not an ancient artifact from a long ago history that has passed. The blood of the martyrs is soaking into the ground in a hundred places around the world as I type this.

This is the blood of the marytrs:

India

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North Korea

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I have interviewed survivors of Christian persecution in Uganda and Nigeria. They are different from us. Their faith has been through the fire and this fire burned away the impurities of trivial concerns.

One of the many things about these people that impressed me is their gentleness; that, and their absolute faith in heaven. I never heard anything from them about the people who persecuted them being damned to hell. The harshest thing I heard was from an Anglican bishop who called them “ignorant.” Their focus is on Jesus. It is not on the ones who attacked them. They see past the persecution to heaven and the gift of eternal life.

More than once when I asked them how they got through it, they said two words: The cross.

They are different from you and me, these people who have been purified by the fires of persecution for the name of Jesus. I never asked any of them about red shoes. But if I had, I imagine that the response would have been incomprehension.

What Jesus Told Us

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Pope Francis on Moral Relativism and Being Our Own Criterion

Pope watchers the world over are well aware that Pope Francis has a love and a calling for the poor. 

He has told us that this inspired his choice of names. 

This emphasis on the poor has caused some disquiet in certain circles. What, they wonder, about the other things? Rumors have flown like mosquitos, claiming that our Holy Father mocked his own election, will abandon traditional marriage, is going to upend the liturgy and allow … what was it? puppets and cartoon characters?? … in the mass. We’ve been regaled with stories about his shoe color and how he’s “tipping the Church over” by washing the feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday.

That’s why I was so glad to be able to publish a post indicating that fully 90% of Catholics who attend weekly mass approve of our new pontiff. I would guess that the other 10% must be on their computers, spinning out tales 24/7.

Today, Pope Francis made a speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps which should allay at least some of those fears. He talked about the poor of the world in moving terms, saying, 

How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

Then, he went on to talk about “another form of poverty … of our time,” which he said was “the spiritual poverty … which afflicts the so-called richer countries … what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism’ which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”

He added that this was the second reason for his name choice, since St Francis not only loved the poor, he also loved peace.

There is no peace without truth! There cannot be peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth … it is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: It is not possible to build true links with God while ignoring other people.

Typing these words has reminded me again how blessed we are that the Holy Spirit has given us this man to be our pope. We need to follow his leadership. It’s difficult for Americans to admit that they should stop quarreling and nit-picking and just follow. But that is what we need to do. 

We are Christians, and it is our precise calling to follow Jesus. The single best way we can know that we are following Jesus is not, as our Holy Father said, to follow our “own criterion,” but to judge our understanding of how we should live by that which is given to us by the Church. 

Pope Francis is Christ’s Vicar here on Earth. 

I personally find some of the things a tiny minority of Catholics are saying about him painful. It is hurtful to me as a woman of faith to read articles attacking my Pope. I expect it from the secular world. But when it comes from Catholics, even when they are only a disgruntled few, it is appalling. 

Here, from Vatican radio, is the entire text of Pope Francis’ speech to the diplomats: 

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.
Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.
In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.
Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!

 

90% of Practicing Catholics are Happy with Pope Francis

 

Ninety percent of weekly-mass Catholics are happy with Pope Francis.

That’s what I call a majority. A recent Pew Research Center Poll on how American Catholics feel about their new Pope indicated overwhelming support. Sixty-two percent of infrequent churchgoers approved of our new Holy Father.

A CNA article about the survey says in part:

.- A new survey shows that U.S. Catholics are overwhelmingly content with the election of Pope Francis, with 73 percent of Catholics expressing happiness with the new pontiff.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center less than a week after the Pope’s March 13 election, also reports a subset of 31 percent of Catholics who say they are very happy with his election.

Though reported happiness was high, about 24 percent of Catholic respondents told the Pew Research Center they have not heard enough about the Pope to make a judgment. 
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However, only two percent said they were unhappy with the cardinals’ choice.

Among weekly Mass attendees, almost 90 percent are happy with his selection, compared to only 62 percent of Catholics who are infrequent churchgoers.

Women and Catholics over 50 were more likely to report being happy at the Pope’s election. (Read the rest here.)

Priest Clears Pope of Accusations

The culture wars are fought with money and words rather than bullets.  Perhaps the most damaging weapon is slander. 

Every public person I know has been slandered. By slander I mean the deliberate character assassination of a person to destroy their effectiveness as advocates for certain viewpoints such as pro life or favoring traditional marriage.

Pope Francis was the object of slander in 2005 when his name first surfaced as a possible candidate for the papacy. The old rumors were dusted off as soon as he actually was elected last week. They claimed that he had “betrayed” two of his fellow priests, Father Francis Jalics and Father Orlando Yorio during the dictatorship of Rafael Videla in the 1970s.

Father Jalics has come forward to deny these claims. I would imagine that talking about this is still painful for him.

But, as he said ” … many commentaries contradict what I wanted to say … Neither I nor Orlando Yorio were denounced by Father Bergoglio … we were arrested because of a catechist who worked with us first and later joined the guerrilla. For nine months, we never saw her again, but two or three days after she was detained, we were detained as well.”

It’s an old story. People are “detained” and threatened or tortured to get them to “denounce” others who are “detained,” threatened and tortured in their turn. I have never understood the purpose of this, except to create a climate of abject terror and distrust within the populace. However, it’s a terrible commonplace.

The Catholic News Agency says in part:

“Since my statement on March 15 of this year, I have received many questions, so I would like to add the following. I almost feel obliged to do so, because some commentaries contradict what I wanted to say,” Fr. Jalics said.

“These are the facts: Neither I nor Orlando Yorio or were denounced by Father Bergoglio.”

“As I made clear in my previous statement, we were arrested because of a catechist who worked with us first and later joined the guerilla,” he explained.

“For nine months we never saw her again, but two or three days after she was detained, we were detained as well,” he continued. “The official who interrogated me asked for my papers. When he saw that I was born in Budapest, he thought I was a Russian spy.”

“In the Argentinean Jesuit congregation and in Catholic circles, false information spread in the years prior that claimed we had moved to the poor barrios because we belonged to the guerilla. But that was not the case. (Read more here.)

 

The Church and Women

I love this photo. Why? Because it shows our new pope washing the feet of both women and men on Holy Thursday. 

Catholics of a certain stripe look for holiness in anything that diminishes women. Righteousness is wanting to do away with altar girls, ending the service of women readers and extraordinary eucharistic ministers. These same folk are adamant that only people with y chromosomes should have their feet washed by a priest on Holy Thursday.

In each of these cases, they will insist that no, absolutely not, misogyny has nothing to do with their insistence that women’s participation in the life of the Church be diminished to spectator and held there. No. They are only making these claims because their liturgical/doctrinal/moral purity commands that they, “in charity,” do so.

After all, they tell you, we have a priest shortage, and the precipitous drop in vocations correlates to the use of female altar servers. Ergo, the presence of girls near the altar is what’s causing the priest shortage. As for women readers and female extraordinary eucharistic ministers … well … women, reading Scripture? Out Loud? Near the Altar? And women, touching the Host. Ewwwww. Then there’s the ugliness over foot washing on Holy Thursday. Everyone knows that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He did it as part of instituting the priesthood, and the priesthood is all male. Sooooo … no foot washing of female feet on Holy Thursday.

Notice how these various excuses seek to sidestep the fact that every single one of them is aimed at women? Notice also, that every single one of them is an I-am-more-Catholic-than-the-popism?

 

Let’s take these arguments one at a time, starting with everybody’s favorite; altar girls = falling vocations. There is a historical correlation between the time that girls were allowed to be altar servers and the beginning of the drop in vocations to the priesthood. However, correlations are always a bogus argument for cause. Here’s why. A correlation simply shows that two events occur near one another. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae also correlates historically to the fall in vocations. By this logic, I could claim that it was the cause. Or, for that matter, Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency correlates. Maybe that did it.

Correlations do not signify cause.

One possible cause of falling vocations that I can think of is linked to that 400 pound gorilla in the room that unwritten rules say we shouldn’t talk about. The percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood appears to have risen during these years. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of possible applicants from which to draw vocations than the entire male Catholic population. In addition to that, as the stigma against homosexuality goes away, homosexual men have lots of other options. I am not writing this to start an attack on homosexual priests. I am writing it to explain why blaming the priest shortage on altar girls is nonsense.

Let’s look at the next argument against women actively taking part in the life of the Church: Women near the altar, or touching the host = something unclean. I hardly know how to address this argument. It is so obviously misogynist and, well, crude, that it baffles me how people who believe it can convince themselves to believe it. A woman reading the scriptures is bad? A woman extraordinary eucharistic minister defiles the Host? Did Jesus despise half the people He made? I think not.

Next, let’s go to the question of washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday. You know: Washing women’s feet on Holy Thursday = heresy or some such. To talk about this intelligently, we need to pause for a moment and consider where the custom of Holy Thursday foot washing came from. It began when Jesus washed the disciples feet at the Last Supper.

 

“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the apostles after he washed their feet. “I have given you an example to follow.” 

He said this to men who, not so long before, were arguing about who was going to be greatest in His coming Kingdom. They didn’t get it. After three years of watching Him talk to the woman at the well, refuse to condemn the woman taken in adultery, teaching Mary and Martha and obeying His Mother at the wedding at Cana, they still didn’t get it.

He came for the least of these. And in all the world, no one is more consistently the least of these than women. Every society has it’s discriminated against. But no matter who else falls to the bottom of things, in every society, there is also always women who are beaten, raped, murdered, bought, sold and belittled from birth to death.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  He instituted the priesthood that night, and by washing their feet, he was teaching them to be priests. “I have given you an example to follow,” He told them. 

The people who are so adamant that no woman’s foot should be washed base their argument on the fact that Jesus instituted the priesthood that night. In some translations, the Scriptures say, “… now you should wash one another’s feet.” These folks try to take that literally, without taking it too literally. It means, they say, no women. But, if you really want to be literal about it, it means only the Apostles. Taken that far, we would probably have bishops, washing each other’s feet in a room by themselves and that would be Holy Thursday.

Does anybody think that’s what Jesus intended?

I think that if you want to follow the spirit of the act, you should probably go out on the streets and bring in homeless people, drug addicts and prostitutes and wash their feet. I think what Jesus was trying to tell the apostles — and us — is that they were wrong when they argued over who would be greatest in His Kingdom. They were wrong when they thought that they were following a Teacher Who would give them the power to lord it over all the rest of humanity. He wasn’t making them kings. He was making them servants.

He was also teaching us, all of us who take His name, that we should be servants. Washing feet on Holy Thursday is a testament of humility on the part of the priesthood of Christ. it is an action of profound meaning that tells all of us what the priesthood is and who it serves. When your parish priest goes down on his knees and washes and kisses the feet of twelve of his parishioners, he is acting out the meaning of the priesthood itself. He is demonstrating what in persona Christi means.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. He didn’t say feed my rams. He also didn’t say feed my ewes. He said feed them all, male and female, young and old, weak and strong, without discrimination or turning any of them away.

Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of all people, everywhere. In my humble and theologically ignorant opinion, if you don’t “get” that, then you don’t “get” Jesus. If you don’t understand that to your core, then you have never met the Lord I encountered on that day long ago when I said, “Forgive me.”

Do you know what I have done to you, he asked. I have given you an example to follow. 

I Think This is Wonderful!

 

I don’t have a lot to say about this for now — I’ll probably get around to saying quite a lot later — but I think it’s wonderful.

I love our Pope!

From Vatican Information Service:

FRANCIS WILL SAY HOLY THURSDAY MASS IN A ROMAN PRISON

Vatican City, 21 March 2013 (VIS) – On Holy Thursday, 28 March, the Holy Father Francis will celebrate the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning and then, at 5:30pm in the afternoon, will go to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo youth detention centre instead of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, where it had been traditionally held in past years.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is characterized by the announcement of the commandment of love and the gesture of washing the feet. In his ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate the Mass in a prison or hospital or hospice for the poor and marginalized. With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue his custom, which is characterized by its humble context. (Read the rest here.)

You’re Pope Francis? Well, then, I’m Napoleon!

Andreas, the Jesuit receptionist must have a short fuse.

At least it appears he does considering his quick response to what he thought was a crank caller. It was an understandable mistake. After all, everybody knows that popes don’t dial their own phones. According to a Vatican official, “When the pope wants to call someone, an official usually calls a secretary who places the call.”

That’s the way things have always been.

Until now.

Francis, the black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying Pope is also a telephone-call-making Pope. He phoned a Jesuit residence in Rome last Friday wanting to speak to the superior general of his old Jesuit order.

The man who answered the phone, who has been identified only as Andreas, wasn’t about to be pranked. “Oh yes?” he said to the Pope. “And I’m Napoleon.”

Then he asked, “Who is it?”

When the Holy Father answered, “I really am Pope Francis. Do not worry Andreas, just connect me with the Father General. I would like to thank him for the charming letter.” Andreas seemed to figure things out. After all, who else talks like that? He apologized, and according to an article in the Mail, is now “extremely distraught” over his mistake.

After watching Pope Francis in action this past week, I doubt that Andreas has anything to worry about. I would guess that a black-shoe-wearing-hotel-bill-paying-phone-call-making Pope is not all that easily offended.

How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there.

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change.

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives.

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days.

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history.

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us.

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration.

 

A Wee Bit About the Papal Ring

My most cherished piece of jewelry is my wedding ring. 

It’s a wide, gold band and I’ve worn it for decades now. I like the symbolism of a band, without jewels, because (to me at least) it signifies my love unbroken love for my wonderful husband.

The Papal Ring is a powerful symbol of love, also. It signifies the love and leadership of Christ in our lives, reflected in the person of the pope.

This video gives a few details about papal rings. It’s also humorous, coming as it does from the days immediately before Pope Francis was elected.

Enjoy.

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The Lord Loves Us So Much, He Gave Us This Immense Gift

“The Lord loves us so much, He gave us this immense gift.”

That’s how retired Cardinal Estanisiao Karlic of Argentina describes the election of his friend, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the Papacy.

Cardinal Karlic says that Pope Francis “carries in his heart the message of the Gospel so that it be spread throughout the world and received by all men and women, that it may infuse in us a missionary and evangelical spirit, to the ends of the earth, such that there be no place in the world where the name of Jesus is not heard.”

 

The Holy Father “is a very simple man” who is “capable of confronting the simplest and also the most complex of issues,” Cardinal Karlic continued.

“He is a man of reflection who puts his wisdom into action. He did so first in leading the Jesuits, later in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, and now in leading the Church as the Supreme Pontiff.”

.- The retired cardinal of Parana, Argentina, described his friend Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – as an able pastor with the heart of a missionary.

In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Estanislao Esteban Karlic said it was a “huge surprise” to see his friend appear on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica dressed in white.

“The Lord loves us so much, he gave us this immense gift.”

“I pray to God that I will not forget that moment so that I can thank him and so that I can pray for our beloved brother Jorge whom we will now call Francis,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Karlic said Pope Francis will help everyone “understand once again that we all have something to give to others, we all have something to receive from others.”

This is true, he said, “because the truth of God, of the Church, of humanity, is communion among those who love each other as brothers and sisters, as individuals, as families, as nations.”

The Holy Father “is a very simple man” who is “capable of confronting the simplest and also the most complex of issues,” Cardinal Karlic continued.

“He is a man of reflection who puts his wisdom into action. He did so first in leading the Jesuits, later in the Diocese of Buenos Aires, and now in leading the Church as the Supreme Pontiff.” (Read the rest here.)


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