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September, 2018
Volume 44, Number 3
  
30 November 2018
CNEWA Staff




Now 8-months-old, little Mariam is thriving and healthy after being treated for a hole in her heart. (photo: CNEWA)

In May, we told you about a CNEWA success story from Jordan, 2-month-old Mariam:

Before Mariam was born, her parents came to CNEWA, looking for help. The mother was older, and it was clear she needed a Caesarean delivery. The CNEWA staff directed the family to the Italian Hospital, supported by CNEWA in Amman, and helped pay for the surgery.

The delivery went well, but the doctors discovered that Mariam has a small hole in her heart. She is being treated with drugs and, in time, it is hoped the hole will close and Mariam will have a long life.

This week, Ra’ed Bahou, our regional director in Amman, sent along the picture shown above, with an update:

This is her second visit to our CNEWA office. Mariam and her father stopped by for the distribution of the Christmas food tickets for Iraqi families.

She is healthy and gorgeous.

We’re delighted to share that news with our readers — and grateful, as always, for the generosity of our CNEWA family that continues to make stories like this one possible.



Tags: Jordan

28 November 2018
CNEWA Staff




Among the skills children learn at the Assisi School is how to create jewelry with beads.
(photo: CNEWA)


This week, we received a report from our regional director in India, M.L. Thomas, updating us on a program CNEWA is supporting:

Kaleketty is a remote forest village in the diocese of Kanjirappally in Kerala. CNEWA stretched its hands to help 50 visually impaired children at a school for the blind run by the Congregation of Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

To help these children develop skills, the sisters conduct academic classes, and also give them training in music, dance, and physical education. They are also trained in rehab programs—making umbrellas, working with rattan and bamboo, or creating jewelry with beads.

CNEWA’s support bought musical instruments, along with mosquito nets, mats, mattresses, medicine and day-to-day living items.

The Assisi Sisters of Mary immaculate (ASMI) which is a Franciscan Congregation of the Syro-Malabar Church, was established in 1949. The congregation was founded to radiate God’s compassionate love to the most rejected of the society — including leprosy patients, the blind, and the mentally handicapped.

The Assisi School for the Blind is a residential school. They have 50 blind children this year studying in 10 grades. Up to grade 7, the students are taught in state syllabus with the help of Braille books. For higher secondary studies, the students stay in the school’s hostel and go to another nearby facility. Proper training, knowledge and encouragement enable them to overcome their disabilities and exceed in life.

We sincerely thank our generous donors for supporting this project. You have not seen these young people, and they cannot see you, but they do visualize you with their hearts. Be assured, they pray for you!



Tags: India

7 November 2018
CNEWA Staff




This week, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from a longtime friend and partner in the Middle East, Samir Nassar, the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus, Syria.

The note featured this image of a praying St. John Paul II:


Inside was this message:


Archbishop Nassar also included a letter with this poignant plea:

IS SYRIA A FORGOTTEN LAND?

It is often said that the Syrian war is the worst and most cruel seen by the world since the Second World War.

The fact that seemingly much of the violence has died down has made us wonder if Syria is remembered at all by most of the world…what a chaotic scene:

600,000 dead with only some buried in dignity and many others in collective graves. All this has meant that many families live in perpetual sorrow and emotional instability.

200,000 have disappeared, including two bishops and four priests; this has made life a nightmare for those who grieve for their loved ones — parents, friends and the churches who have no news of them.

13,000,000 refugees — a very heavy burden as a consequence of this world war game on the Syrian territory…whole populations who suffer in silence and despair. Bitterness and a loss of meaning to life…a broken people, scattered and searching for a future.

95,000 hands cut off, feet amputated or paralyzed in a country which is ill-prepared to handle these sorts of problems alone, and the subsequent psychological and health consequences.

2,500,000 dwellings demolished or destroyed.

Local currency is valueless and inflation has risen alarmingly; the exodus of the young has marked the remaining hopes for future growth.

Faced with these scenes of desolation in the church in Syria, I cannot fall into the role of a mere spectator. The church is a strong witness of the Spirit and the Light which it brings. She is a sign of the Presence and a witness in the domain of health care, education, pastoral work with the young, family support, accompanying fragile families and supporting in every way the less fortunate. All of this is done in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.

If the world has forgotten Syria, the Lord is watching over her and will not let the boat flounder!

+Samir Nassar

He added a personal handwritten note, too:

Thank you, dear Msgr. Kozar, for the mission of CNEWA in Syria. Our problems are too heavy. Please pray for us. We prepare for Christmas with a heavy Calvary. God bless you for all that you did and do.

Please do not let Syria become a "forgotten land." Their needs are great. Remember them in your prayers.



Tags: Syria

30 October 2018
CNEWA Staff




Students at the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia sing and pray together after breakfast. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

CNEWA’s regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu, forwarded us a report from the Shashemene School for the Blind in Ethiopia — a CNEWA-supported facility that is working wonders with young people.

Some highlights of the report:

Entrusting ourselves in the hands of God, we began the new scholastic year (2017-18). In spite of the political disturbances, we carried on our good work. Regular and fulltime teaching started by the end of September, as it took time to reach all our students, perhaps because of the political unrest throughout the country.

This year the teachers had the opportunity to attend a workshop held in our Catholic mission school. Though it was difficult for only two sisters to see to the running of the residential school—with the political unrest every now and then and other problems—nevertheless, with God’s grace, everything became possible. May God bless those we are privileged to serve!

As soon as all the children arrived we had an opening ceremony with the Holy Eucharist. Abba Tesfaye, our parish priest, offered the Mass, invoking God’s blessing on the school. This was followed by Bunna (coffee) ceremony.

We were happy to have the visit of our Bishop Abraham Desta along with Abba Gobezayehu, Abba Tesfaye and some visitors from abroad. They took time to go around the school and interact with the children. At the end, we met together to share some concerns of the school.

There were several visitors during the year — students from different universities and friends. All expressed appreciation for the work being done.

Ex-students: Most of our former students are well-settled in life. One of our ex-students who is married and is working for a government organization was happy to give a talk to the students on causes and prevention of HIV. Another two students doing their research on the foundation and development of the school had a lot to share as a part of their research. It was also a joy to meet five of our ex-students from Hawassa Universitym, who visited the school along with their colleagues. These five have completed their graduation this year and hope to be employed in the near future.

Volunteers: We thank a couple from Poland who occasionally gave their services by teaching the children music. They also gave a short training to the teachers on how to operate the braille printer. Another group of youngsters from Shashemane spent time with the children every Saturday. They taught them hymns and games.

Christmas Celebrations: This year, the celebrations, were extra colorful with a beautiful decorated tent. New dance costumes added flavor to the show. Many friends, some ex-students, and relatives of children who are not too far away attended. Our children are always happy and excited when they get an occasion to exhibit their talents such as acting, music, dance, acrobatics, reciting poems,etc. Thanks to the efforts of the music teacher, some of the boys were able to handle the key board and perform well, to the delight of the audience.

Day of the Differently Abled: This is what the children are — talented and intelligent. On this special day, we created an atmosphere to make them feel that they are indeed able and not disabled. Through a short program, they showed that they are gifted and on a par with any sighted person.

Maintenance: The school is 37-years-old. No doubt the buildings and furniture need maintenance and replacements. With the help of our benefactors, we were able to purchase some furniture, water tanks, mattresses, blankets, two sets of sweaters and other necessary items. A lot of maintenance was also done. Here I need to mention Luigi, a volunteer from Italy, who worked hard to get our electrical system in order. We look forward to re-arranging our water system by replacing the old rusted iron pipes with fiber pipes. We hope this will solve our perennial water shortage problem.

Tree Planting: Bunna (coffee) is the specialty of Ethiopia. Our teachers were very eager to plant coffee saplings in our school garden. They continue to water and nurture their respective coffee plants. All praise to you, God, for our beautiful green garden!

Outings: What a joy to go out for a picnic! We went often with our children to a beautiful park. They looked extra-smart this year in their new school T- Shirts, which had this printed on the front: “Disability is Not Inability.” May they continue to enjoy their childhood and their dignity.

Our staff too had a great day at Hawassa Lake. IThey cooked their lunch and had a sumptuous meal. All felt a bond of togetherness as they sang, ate and had a boat ride together. Let us keep up the joy of togetherness!

Graduation: This year, we bade farewell to 12 students who completed their elementary education in the residential setting. On the day of their farewell, for the first time, to the amazement of the parents and staff our 12 children dressed in blue graduation gowns and walked elegantly in the midst of the audience. All were filled with joy to see these students in their new attire. All the best, dear students, God bless you!

For the first time, students donned gowns for their graduation.
(photo: Shashemene School for the Blind


A Word of Thanks: We — the students, staff and sisters — owe a deep debt of gratitude to our many kind and generous benefactors, both individuals and groups, without whom our work would not have been possible.

My heart-felt thanks to all those who helped us economically and morally, encouraging and strengthening us during the past year.

May God bless you!

Sister Ashrita Mendes, Shashemane School for the Blind

CNEWA remains grateful to all who have helped so many of the young people at Shashemane — truly bringing light to their darkness. What a difference you are making in so many lives.

On behalf of all of them, and the people who serve them in Ethiopia, we can only echo this heartfelt sentiment from Sister Ashrita: "Thank you! May God bless you!"



Tags: Ethiopia

23 October 2018
CNEWA Staff




The interior of this church at Mt. Carmel has been renovated, with new lighting and an improved sound system provided by CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)

Last week, Laura Schau-Tarazi, in our Jerusalem office, sent us this picture with a note:

On 14 October, CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Joseph Hazboun, attend the celebration at the Church of the Carmelite Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Haifa, for the consecration of the newly renovated church and altar.

CNEWA generously covered the costs to improve the interior lighting and sound system of the church, which has helped complete the entire renovation project.

The Monastery Notre Dame du Mont Carmel has a beautiful old church that serves as a venue for local ceremonies and celebrations of the feasts of the order. It also serves as a place of solace and reflection for spiritual retreats. Many weddings and baptisms by the local Christian community are also held at the church.

The church required significant rehabilitation work to the interior of the building, as it suffered from significant damage from water and weather over many years. Additionally, the ground floor became uneven . Most recently, the church tiles were repaired, damage from humidity was treated, and the altar was restructured to meet the needs of the cloistered sisters and the local community.

Despite these changes, the sisters still required funds to improve the interior lighting, which was often too dim. It frequently malfunctioned during events and consumed a lot of electricity. (It is important to note that the sisters had already selected for this work, Melloncelli, an Italian firm that visited the Monastery and designed a lighting system for the church, without taking any charges for the design).

The lighting and sound system provided by CNEWA have significantly reduced electricity consumption and improved the quality of worship in the church.

Thank you to our generous donors, who have helped to bring light to the faithful in the Holy Land — literally! Projects such as these help support the prayerful good work of religious sisters, serve to enhance the spiritual experience for so many, while also giving honor to our Lord and his Blessed Mother.



Tags: Holy Land

16 October 2018
CNEWA Staff




Paul VI meets with leaders of the CNEWA/Pontifical Mission family at the Vatican, including Cardinal Francis Spellman, chair of CNEWA, and Archbishop Joseph Ryan, then-president of CNEWA.
(photo: CNEWA archives)


On Sunday, 14 October, Pope Francis canonized seven saints — including Pope Paul VI, who was the bishop of Rome from 1963 until his death in 1978. The man who is now St. Paul VI was long a champion of our work around the world — beginning in the 1940’s.

During World War II, then-Msgr. Giovanni Batttista Montini, who served Pope Pius XII, organized and directed the Holy See’s relief efforts for refugees. At a November 1948 meeting in the Vatican — during which the idea of a papal mission specifically for displaced persons in Palestine was discussed — it was Msgr. Montini who penciled in the name of the head of CNEWA, then Msgr. Thomas J. McMahon, to lead such an effort. Thus was born the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, which Pius XII entrusted to CNEWA as its operating agency in the Middle East.

Years later, as Pope Paul VI showed an even deeper commitment to the work of CNEWA. To begin with, he announced plans to open his pontificate with a historic trip to the Holy Land:

In December 1963, during the council [Vatican II], Paul VI announced his intention to begin his pontificate with a “pilgrimage of prayer and penance” to the Holy Land:

“We will bring to the Holy Sepulchre and to the Grotto of the Nativity the desires of individuals, of families, of nations; above all, the aspirations, the anxieties, the sufferings of the sick, the poor, the disinherited, the afflicted, of refugees, of those who suffer, those who weep, those who hunger and thirst for justice.”

He made the trip in January 1964:

Fired with the Gospel message of hope, the pope met with heads of state and religious leaders in the Holy Land. These visits culminated with his embrace in Jerusalem of Orthodoxy’s spiritual leader, Patriarch Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Before departing the Holy Land, Pope Paul VI assured [CNEWA’s Secretary and President of the Pontifical Mission] Msgr. Joseph Ryan, who accompanied the pontiff, of the Holy See’s commitment to the refugees and encouraged Ryan to further the Pontifical Mission’s efforts with Palestinians.

Paul VI’s pilgrimage resulted in social rehabilitation and development projects that, with support from the Pontifical Mission, changed the lives of many: Bethlehem University; Ephpheta Institute for hearing-impaired children; Tantur Ecumenical Institute; and Notre Dame of Jerusalem Pilgrimage Center. These diverse initiatives testified to the pope’s belief in the church as an instrument of reconciliation and hope.

At the Mount of Olives, Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I lift the mutual excommunications dividing the Catholic and Orthodox churches, in January 1964.
(photo: CNEWA archives)


The following year, Pope Paul VI issued the groundbreaking document, Nostra Aetate, a declaration on the relation of the church to non-Christian religions, which noted not only Christianity’s historic connection to Jews, but also its respect for Muslims:

The church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all-powerful, the creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even his inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, his virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

In the years that followed, he never lost his concern with and affection for the peoples of the Middle East:

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Mission, Pope Paul VI wrote to [CNEWA’s] Msgr. John G. Nolan … : ”The work of the Mission for Palestine has been one of the clearest signs of the Holy See’s concern for the welfare of the Palestinians, who are particularly dear to us because they are people of the Holy Land, because they include followers of Christ, and because they have been and are still being so tragically tried. We express again our heartfelt sharing in their sufferings and our support for their legitimate aspirations.” (16 July 1974)

Also in 1974, the Holy Father noted in Nobis in Animo that the Holy Land “is also a country in which, besides the Shrines and Holy Places, a Church — a community of believers in Christ — lives and works. Were their presence to cease, the Shrines would be without the warmth of the living witness and the Christian Holy Places of Jerusalem and the Holy Land would become like museums.”

Cardinal Jacques Martin, a co-worker of then Msgr. Montini for many years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, in speaking of Pope Paul VI, noted, “The thing that most struck those who were close to him was that he gave himself entirely to the service of the church, without second thoughts, without holding back any of his time or energy. At one a.m. the light was often still burning in his office. He was a man consumed by his work, a man who gave himself entirely.”

We remain deeply grateful for the love and passion he brought to his papacy — and which he shared so selflessly with the suffering peoples in the Holy Land, a place now so fraught with division, hardship and violence. So many of those we serve need his prayerful intercession now, more than ever.

Pope Paul VI prays at the River Jordan during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964.
(photo: CNEWA archives)


With humble gratitude and boundless hope, we join our voices to so many others around the world this day to pray for his accompaniment, his prophetic vision, and his courage. May his spirit help us to help others, and may his prayers guide us on our way.

”St. Paul VI, pray for us!”



Tags: CNEWA Pope CNEWA Pontifical Mission

9 October 2018
CNEWA Staff





The September edition of our award-winning magazine ONE is on its way to your mailbox, but you can get a first look online right here.

In this edition, follow a young man’s journey to the priesthood in Egypt; learn how the church is continuing her mission to children in India; hear from a mother rebuilding her family’s life in Iraq; and share the hope and promise of at-risk mothers and young children in Georgia. All that, plus important news from the world we serve, along with journalism that was recently hailed for its “breath-taking photography, innovative design and (above all) textbook storytelling.”

The theme of this ONE is proclaimed proudly on the cover: “Sharing Hope.” And in the video below, our president Msgr. John E. Kozar offers a more detailed preview of just what that means.



We’re pleased to be able to share our hope with you — and grateful for all that our readers and donors have made possible. Thank you!

Check out more.



Tags: CNEWA ONE magazine

25 September 2018
CNEWA Staff




A donor sent us this note and shared his story. (photo: CNEWA)

Recently, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, received a letter from one of our donors. You don’t get letters like this every day.

The author wrote from a prison in the United States, where he receives our magazine, ONE. He scribbled a few sentences on lined notebook paper:

Fr. John,

Enclosed is $25 to help out your ministry. Glad I can help a little. Enclosed is my testimony.

Attached was a single sheet of paper titled “Journey of Faith.” Msgr. Kozar was so moved, he wanted to share some of this man’s witness with you. It reads, in part:

When I was 14 years old, I already was asking myself what is the meaning and purpose of life? Why are we here on earth? God wasn’t a part of my life at 14. I spent my first 5 years of school going to a Catholic parochial school and attending Catholic Mass, but I never connected with God. I couldn’t make heads or tails of my life at 14 and it bothered me. Eventually, I drifted to a group of kids in my San Francisco Marina neighborhood who were dealing with the same identity crisis. They were juvenile delinquents and I became one. I stole cars to joy ride, shoplifted, burglarized businesses, cut school, ran away from home and got into alcohol and drugs. I became a criminal going to jail. Eventually, I went for a big score that went sour and ended up with a life sentence in Florida.

…Once I was back in prison, finding myself stripped of everything, I was forced to reflect. In the depths of my abjection, God gave me the grace to recall his goodness. I acknowledged my sins, repented and asked for his forgiveness. God forgave me. Today I’m reconciled with God, myself and the Catholic Church. Since then I’ve been living a sacramental life of weekly Mass, weekly communion, frequent confession, daily prayer and scripture readings...

…Being at peace with God has a future. This world is passing away. Many people sadly believe this world is all there is to life, that this is our final destiny. They’re wrong. Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds true happiness. St. Augustine said it so well. “For you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

If you have been away from God and the Church, come back. Jesus is waiting for you. No matter what you have done, God forgives all sin. God is a very merciful and forgiving God.

We remain forever grateful to donors like this man — people who give what they can, however they can, to help those who have even less. These quiet acts of love are bringing hope and dignity to those who are otherwise forgotten.

As Msgr. Kozar writes so poignantly in the upcoming edition of ONE:

Many of the good works supported by CNEWA reach out to all and proudly proclaim that God loves all his children. There is no “pecking order” with our God—we are all embraced by his love. We do not exclude and only offer help to “our own”—Jesus makes it clear that we love all.

All of our CNEWA family thank you for your support—and, better yet, they promise to remember you in their prayers. God bless you.

God bless all our donors who give so generously and share so selflessly!



Tags: CNEWA

21 September 2018
CNEWA Staff




Over the last several weeks, thousands of Ethiopians have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed by interethnic violence. CNEWA has rushed emergency aid to help them recover.
(photo: CNEWA)


In August we reported on the crisis facing thousands of people in Ethiopia, who were forced to flee interethnic violence. Many found shelter and sanctuary in a Catholic parish. Yesterday, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, sent us this update:

Last week, I met with Matewos Dangiso [the social development director of the Hawassa Vicariate, the Catholic jurisdiction where much of this violence in south central Ethiopia has taken place] to get an update on the current status of the displaced people in Gedeo and West Guji. He also gave me an overview of the Catholic Church’s efforts to help these people.

Currently, most of the displaced have returned to their home areas. The government and international humanitarian agencies have played the main role in this process. Since their displacement occurred at the beginning of the school year, officials urged families to return in order for their children to resume classes in their home areas — despite not having anything to return to.

The return of people to their homes has not been a smooth process. It was very difficult to distribute emergency food and non-food items. The area is poverty stricken, so those not displaced also tried to obtain emergency support — further complicating an already challenging process.

The returnees are now sheltered in seven districts in Gedeo and West Guji. They are without clothing, shelter, tools — in short, they are penniless — which is making serious demands on the church and aid agencies in their efforts to help. In addition to providing food and water, aid efforts include the provision of non-food essentials, such as cooking utensils, blankets, hygienic and medical items.

There is also reconstruction underway— building shelters, rebuilding schools, then furnishing them and providing basic farm needs so that people can try and make a living. At the same time, efforts are underway to support the peace-building process.

The government is developing a coordinated year-long plan that will require substantial funding. The Catholic Church is designated to serve in three shelter areas: Gedeb and Kochore in Gedeo for people displaced from West Guji and Garba, and in West Guji for people displaced from Gedeo area.These areas are where the church — with funding from CNEWA —previously served people through schools and health facilities. There are efforts underway to determine how many people are still in need, but the number is expected to total about 4,500 individuals.

CNEWA was among the first organizations to rush emergency aid, as well as Caritas Austria and Caritas Bolzana-Italy, which enabled the vicariate to purchase food items, medicines, hygienic supplies and household utensils to distribute to those affected.

Catholic Relief Services has also gotten involved and recently provided $25,000 for reconstruction work. Caritas Austria has also contributed additional €50,000.00 for the same purpose.

As we noted in our news roundup yesterday, this crisis is far from over. To help those in need in Ethiopia during this challenging and dangerous time, please visit this page. Thank you!



Tags: Ethiopia

19 September 2018
CNEWA Staff




CNEWA's external affairs officer, the Rev. Elias Mallon, S.A., speaks at Holy Family Parish in Lawton, OK, during a parish visit in 2015. (photo: Christopher Kennedy)

We were heartened to see this recent report in The Sooner Catholic about a parish in Oklahoma that has been supporting CNEWA’s work:

There has been a war in Syria since 2011, and half the country has been displaced, meaning families are no longer living in their hometowns, cities or villages. Thousands are victims of the war and are in dire need of help.

For the past three years, Holy Family in Lawton has made it their mission to help those war-stricken families by giving Lenten offerings to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).

“Every Lent, we have a special Lenten Project. The past three years it has been Syrian refugees, the Dominican Sisters of Iraq, and refugees,” said the Rev. Phil Seeton, pastor of Holy Family.

“People are invited to drop an envelope into a basket that we have marked with CNEWA information. As they come up, they are bringing their gifts to the altar. I know from letters that the money has gone to medical clinics, and to some refugee camps. The refugees served in the camps are mainly members of the Chaldean and Syriac Catholic churches, the Assyrian Church of the East as well as Yzdidis and Muslims.”

Father Phil expressed the need to do more.

“These folks are brothers and sisters in the faith, and they are not getting much help from governments. It comes through the generosity of the different Christian churches in Europe and the United States. These people are modern day confessors to the faith. Maybe they have not been martyred, but there are thousands who have been martyred for Christ over there. They are confessing their faith with their lives.”

Luscia Hankins is the co-chairman of Holy Family’s Spiritual Life Committee, along with Mary Beth Mullins. The committee helps organize the Lenten fundraiser for CNEWA. In 2017, they raised $6,200.

“This year, we raised $10,200. It was for the displaced Syrians who were placed in camps. The donation was to build camps of their own. They are being persecuted for the religion we share. It is an obligation to our fellow Christians,” Hankins said.

Since 2013, they have given $38,000 to CNEWA.

Read more.

We remain deeply grateful to Father Phil and the people of Holy Family for their generous and prayerful support, helping so many of our brothers and sisters in need. Thank you!



Tags: Syria CNEWA





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