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"Tear away the mask from Freemasonry, Pope Leo XIII
Vigilanti Cura (On Hollywood Movies)

Pope Pius XI 

1936

INTRODUCTION

In  following  with vigilant eye, as Our Pastoral
Office  requires,  the  beneficent  work  of  Our
Brethren  in  the Episcopate and of the faithful,
it has been highly pleasing to Us to learn of the
fruits already gathered and of the progress which
continues to be made by that  prudent  initiative
launched  more  than  two  years  ago  as  a holy
crusade against the abuses of the motion pictures
and  entrusted in a special manner to the "Legion
of Decency."

             This excellent experiment now offers
Us a most welcome opportunity of manifesting more
fully Our thought in regard  to  a  matter  which
touches  intimately  the moral and religious life
of the entire Christian people.

First of all, We express  Our  gratitude  to  the
Hierarchy  of the United States of America and to
the faithful who cooperated with  them,  for  the
important  results  already achieved, under their
direction  and  guidance,  by  the   "Legion   of
Decency."  And  Our gratitude is all the livelier
for the fact that We  were  deeply  anguished  to
note   with   each  passing  day  the  lamentable
progress of the motion picture art  and  industry
in the portrayal of sin and vice.

I. PREVIOUS WARNINGS RECALLED

As often as the occasion has presented itself, We
have considered it the duty of Our high Office to
direct  to  this condition the attention not only
of the Episcopate and the Clergy but also of  all
men  who  are right-minded and solicitous for the
public weal. In  the  Encyclical  "Divini  illius
Magistri,"  We  had already deplored that "potent
instrumentalities  of  publicity  (such  as   the
cinema)  which  might  be  of  great advantage to
learning and  to  education  were  they  properly
directed    by    healthy    principles,    often
unfortunately  serve  as  an  incentive  to  evil
passions and are subordinated to sordid gain." 1

The Influence of the Motion Picture


In   August   1934,  addressing  Ourselves  to  a
delegation of the International Federation of the
Motion  Picture  Press,  We  pointed out the very
great importance which  the  motion  picture  has
acquired in our days and its vast influence alike
in the promotion of good and in  the  insinuation
of  evil,  and  We  called  to  mind  that  it is
necessary to apply to the cinema the supreme rule
which  must direct and regulate the great gift of
art in order that  it  may  not  find  itself  in
continual  conflict  with  Christian  morality or
even with simple human morality  based  upon  the
natural  law.  The  essential purpose of art, its
raison d'κtre, is to assist in the perfection  of
the moral personality, which is man, and for this
reason it must itself be moral. And We  concluded
amidst the manifest approval of that elect body -
the memory is still dear to Us — by  recommending
to  them  the  necessity  of  making  the  motion
picture "moral, an influence for good morals,  an
educator.”  And  even  recently, in April of this
year, when We had the happiness of  receiving  in
audience    a   group   of   delegates   to   the
International  Congress  of  the  Motion  Picture
Press,  held  at Rome, We again drew attention to
the  gravity  of  the  problem,  and  We   warmly
exhorted  all  men  of  goodwill, in the name not
only of religion but also of the true  moral  and
civil  welfare  of the people, to use every means
in their power, such as the Press, to make of the
cinema  a  valuable  auxiliary of instruction and
education rather than of destruction and ruin  of
souls.

The Needs of the Entire Catholic World


The   subject,  however,  is  of  such  paramount
importance in itself and because of  the  present
condition of society that We deem it necessary to
return to it again, not alone for the purpose  of
making  particular  recommendations  as  on  past
occasions but rather  with  a  universal  outlook
which,  while  embracing  the  needs  of your own
dioceses,   Venerable   Brethren,   takes    into
consideration those of the entire Catholic world.
It  is,  in  fact,  urgently  necessary  to  make
provision that in this field also the progress of
the arts, of the sciences, and of human technique
and  industry,  since  they are all true gifts of
God, may be ordained to  His  glory  and  to  the
salvation  of souls and may be made to serve in a
practical way to promote  the  extension  of  the
Kingdom  of  God  upon earth. Thus, as the Church
bids us pray, we may all profit by  them  but  in
such  a  manner as not to lose the goods eternal:
"sic  transeamus  per  bona  temporalia  ut   non
admittamus aeterna." 2

Now  then, it is a certainty which can readily be
verified that the more marvelous the progress  of
the  motion  picture  art  and industry, the more
pernicious and deadly  has  it  shown  itself  to
morality  and  to  religion  and even to the very
decencies of human society. The directors of  the
industry  in  the  United  States recognized this
fact themselves  when  they  confessed  that  the
responsibility  before  the  people and the world
was their very own. In an agreement entered  into
by  common  accord  in  March, 1930, and solemnly
sealed, signed, and published in the Press,  they
formally  pledged themselves to safeguard for the
future the moral welfare of the  patrons  of  the
cinema.

It  is  promised  in  this agreement that no film
which  lowers   the   moral   standard   of   the
spectators, which casts discredit upon natural or
human  law  or   arouses   sympathy   for   their
violation, will be produced. Promises not carried
out


Nevertheless,  in  spite   of   this   wise   and
spontaneously  taken  decision, those responsible
showed themselves incapable of carrying  it  into
effect and it appeared that the producers and the
operators were  not  disposed  to  stand  by  the
principles  to  which  they had bound themselves.
Since, therefore, the above-mentioned undertaking
proved  to  have  but slight effect and since the
parade of vice and crime continued on the screen,
the road seemed almost closed to those who sought
honest diversion in the motion picture.  In  this
crisis,  you,  Venerable Brethren, were among the
first to study  the  means  of  safeguarding  the
souls  entrusted  to  your care, and you launched
the "Legion of Decency" as a crusade  for  public
morality  designed  to  revitalize  the ideals of
natural and Christian rectitude. Far from you was
the thought of doing damage to the motion picture
industry: rather indeed did you arm it beforehand
against  the  ruin  which  menaces  every form of
recreation  which,   in   the   guise   of   art,
degenerates into corruption.

The "Legion of Decency" Pledge

Your  leadership  called  forth  the  prompt  and
devoted loyalty  of  your  faithful  people,  and
millions  of American Catholics signed the pledge
of the "Legion of Decency" binding themselves not
to  attend any motion picture which was offensive
to Catholic moral principles or proper  standards
of  living. We are thus able to proclaim joyfully
that few problems of these latter times  have  so
closely  united  Bishops  and  people  as the one
resolved by cooperation in this holy crusade. Not
only  Catholics but also high-minded Protestants,
Jews, and many  others  accepted  your  lead  and
joined their efforts with yours in restoring wise
standards,  both  artistic  and  moral,  to   the
cinema.  It is an exceedingly great comfort to Us
to note the outstanding success of  the  crusade.
Because  of  your  vigilance  and  because of the
pressure which has been brought to bear by public
opinion,
the  motion picture has shown an improvement from
the  moral  standpoint:  crime   and   vice   are
portrayed  less  frequently;  sin is no longer so
openly approved and acclaimed;  false  ideals  of
life  are  no  longer  presented in so flagrant a
manner to the impressionable minds of youth.

A Useful Impetus


Although in certain  quarters  it  was  predicted
that  the  artistic  values of the motion picture
would  be  seriously  impaired  by   the   reform
insisted  upon  by  the  "Legion  of Decency," it
appears that quite the contrary has happened  and
that  the "Legion of Decency" has given no little
impetus to the efforts to advance the  cinema  on
the   road  to  noble  artistic  significance  by
directing it towards the  production  of  classic
masterpieces  as well as of original creations of
uncommon   worth.   Nor   have   the    financial
investments  of  the  industry  suffered,  as was
gratuitously foretold,  for  many  of  those  who
stayed  away  from  the  motion  picture  theatre
because it outraged morality are  patronizing  it
now that they are able to enjoy clean films which
are not offensive to good morals or dangerous  to
Christian virtue.

When  you  started your crusade, it was said that
your efforts would be of short duration and  that
the  effects would not be lasting because, as the
vigilance  of  Bishops  and  faithful   gradually
diminished, the producers would be free to return
again  to  their  former  methods.  It   is   not
difficult  to  understand  why  certain  of these
might be desirous of going back to  the  sinister
themes which pander to base desires and which you
had  proscribed.  While  the  representation   of
subjects of real artistic value and the portrayal
of  the  vicissitudes  of  human  virtue  require
intellectual  effort, toil, ability, and at times
considerable  outlay  of  money,  it   is   often
relatively  easy  to  attract  a  certain type of
person and certain classes of people to a theatre
which   presents   picture  plays  calculated  to
inflame the passions  and  to  arouse  the  lower
instincts latent in the human heart. An unceasing
and universal vigilance must,  on  the  contrary,
convince   the  producers  that  the  "Legion  of
Decency" has not been started  as  a  crusade  of
short   duration,   soon   to  be  neglected  and
forgotten, but that the  Bishops  of  the  United
States  are  determined,  at all times and at all
costs, to safeguard the recreation of the  people
whatever form that recreation may take.



II. THE POWER OF THE CINEMA



Recreation, in its manifold varieties, has become
a  necessity  for  people  who  work  under   the
fatiguing  conditions  of modern industry, but it
must be worthy of the rational nature of man  and
therefore  must  be  morally  healthy. It must be
elevated to the rank of  a  positive  factor  for
good  and must seek to arouse noble sentiments. A
people who, in time of repose, give themselves to
diversions  which  violate  decency,  honour,  or
morality, to recreations which, especially to the
young,  constitute occasions of sin, are in grave
danger of losing their greatness and  even  their
national  power.  It admits of no discussion that
the motion picture has achieved these last  years
a  position  of universal importance among modern
means of diversion.

The most Popular Form of Amusement


There is no need  to  point  out  the  fact  that
millions  of  people  go  to  the motion pictures
every day; that motion picture theatres are being
opened in ever increasing number in civilized and
semi-civilized countries; that the motion picture
has  become  the  most  popular form of diversion
which is offered for the leisure hours  not  only
of the rich but of all classes of society. At the
same time, there does not exist today a means  of
influencing  the  masses  more  potent  than  the
cinema. The reason for this is to be  sought  for
in the very nature of the pictures projected upon
the screen, in the popularity of  motion  picture
plays,  and  in the circumstances which accompany
them.

The power of the motion picture consists in this,
that  it  speaks  by  means of vivid and concrete
imagery which the mind takes  in  with  enjoyment
and  without  fatigue.  Even the crudest and most
primitive minds which have neither  the  capacity
nor  the desire to make the efforts necessary for
abstraction or deductive reasoning are captivated
by  the  cinema.  In  place  of  the effort which
reading  or  listening  demands,  there  is   the
continued  pleasure  of  a succession of concrete
and, so to speak, living pictures. This power  is
still  greater  in  the  talking  picture for the
reason that interpretation  becomes  even  easier
and  the charm of music is added to the action of
the drama. Dances  and  variety  acts  which  are
sometimes  introduced  between the films serve to
increase the stimulation of the passions.



It must be Elevated



Since then the cinema is in  reality  a  sort  of
object  lesson  which,  for  good  or  for  evil,
teaches the majority of men more effectively than
abstract   reasoning,  it  must  be  elevated  to
conformity  with  the   aims   of   a   Christian
conscience   and   saved   from   depraving   and
demoralizing effects. Everyone knows what  damage
is  done to the soul by bad motion pictures. They
are occasions of sin; they  seduce  young  people
along   the   ways  of  evil  by  glorifying  the
passions; they show life  under  a  false  light;
they   cloud  ideals;  they  destroy  pure  love,
respect for marriage, affection for  the  family.
They  are  capable  also  of  creating prejudices
among  individuals  and  misunderstandings  among
nations,   among  social  classes,  among  entire
races.

On the  other  hand,  good  motion  pictures  are
capable   of   exercising   a   profoundly  moral
influence upon those who see them. In addition to
affording  recreation,  they  are  able to arouse
noble ideals of  life,  to  communicate  valuable
conceptions,  to impart a better knowledge of the
history and the beauties of the Fatherland and of
other  countries,  to  present  truth  and virtue
under attractive forms, to create, or at least to
favour   understanding   among   nations,  social
classes, and races,  to  champion  the  cause  of
justice,  to  give  new  life  to  the  claims of
virtue,  and  to  contribute  positively  to  the
genesis  of  a just social order in the world. It
Speaks not to Individuals but to Multitudes



These considerations take on greater  seriousness
from  the  fact  that  the  cinema  speaks not to
individuals but to multitudes, and that  it  does
so   in  circumstances  of  time  and  place  and
surroundings which are most apt to arouse unusual
enthusiasm  for  the  good as well as for the bad
and to  conduce  to  that  collective  exaltation
which,  as  experience teaches us, may assume the
most morbid forms. The motion picture  is  viewed
by  people  who  are seated in a dark theatre and
whose  faculties,  mental,  physical,  and  often
spiritual,  are  relaxed. One does not need to go
far in search of these theatres: they  are  close
to the home, to the church, and to the school and
they thus bring the cinema into the  very  centre
of popular life.

Moreover,  stories  and  actions  are  presented,
through  the  cinema,  by  men  and  women  whose
natural  gifts  are  increased  by  training  and
embellished by every known art, in a manner which
may  possibly  become  an  additional  source  of
corruption, especially to the young. Further, the
motion   picture  has  enlisted  in  its  service
luxurious  appointments,  pleasing   music,   the
vigour  of realism, every form of whim and fancy.
For this very reason, it attracts and  fascinates
particularly  the young, the adolescent, and even
the child. Thus at the very age  when  the  moral
sense  is  being  formed and when the notions and
sentiments of justice and rectitude, of duty  and
obligation  and  of  ideals  of  life  are  being
developed, the motion  picture  with  its  direct
propaganda   assumes  a  position  of  commanding
influence. It is unfortunate that, in the present
state  of  affairs,  this influence is frequently
exerted for evil. So much so that when one thinks
of the havoc wrought in the souls of youth and of
childhood, of the  loss  of  innocence  so  often
suffered  in  the  motion picture theatres, there
comes   to   mind   the   terrible   condemnation
pronounced  by  Our  Lord  upon the corrupters of
little ones: "whosoever shall scandalize  one  of
these  little  ones  who  believe  in Me, it were
better for him that a millstone be  hanged  about
his  neck and that he be drowned in the depths of
the sea."



It must not be a School of Corruption



It is therefore one of the  supreme  necessities,
of  our  times  to watch and to labour to the end
that the motion picture be no longer a school  of
corruption  but  that  it  be transformed into an
effectual instrument for the  education  and  the
elevation  of  mankind.  And  here We record with
pleasure  that  certain  Governments,  in   their
anxiety for the influence exercised by the cinema
in the moral and educational fields,  have,  with
the aid of upright and honest persons, especially
fathers and mothers of families, set up reviewing
commissions  and  have constituted other agencies
which have to do with motion  picture  production
in an effort to direct the cinema for inspiration
to the national works of great poets and writers.

It was  most  fitting  and  desirable  that  you,
Venerable   Brethren,  should  have  exercised  a
special  watchfulness  over  the  motion  picture
industry  which  in  your  country  is  so highly
developed and which has great influence in  other
quarters  of the globe. It is equally the duty of
the Bishops of the entire Catholic world to unite
in  vigilance over this universal and potent form
of entertainment and instruction, to the end that
they  may  be  able  to place a ban on bad motion
pictures because they are an offence to the moral
and  religious sentiments and because they are in
opposition to the Christian  spirit  and  to  its
ethical principles. There must be no weariness in
combating whatever contributes to  the  lessening
of  the  people's sense of decency and of honour.
This is an obligation which binds  not  only  the
Bishops  but also the faithful and all decent men
who are solicitous  for  the  decorum  and  moral
health of the family, of the nation, and of human
society in general.  In  what,  then,  must  this
vigilance consist?



III. A WORK FOR CATHOLIC ACTION



The  problem  of  the  production  of moral films
would be solved radically if it were possible for
us  to  have  production  wholly  inspired by the
principles of Christian morality.  We  can  never
sufficiently  praise all those who have dedicated
themselves or who are to dedicate  themselves  to
the  noble  cause  of raising the standard of the
motion picture to meet the needs of education and
the requirements of the Christian conscience. For
this purpose, they must  make  full  use  of  the
technical  ability  of experts and not permit the
waste of effort and of money by the employment of
amateurs.  But  since We know how difficult it is
to organize such an industry, especially  because
of  considerations  of  a  financial  nature, and
since on  the  other  hand  it  is  necessary  to
influence  the  production  of  all films so that
they  may  contain   nothing   harmful   from   a
religious, moral, or social viewpoint, Pastors of
souls must exercise their  vigilance  over  films
wherever  they  may  be  produced  and offered to
Christian peoples.

To the Bishops of all Countries


As to the  motion  picture  industry  itself,  We
exhort  the  Bishops  of  all  countries,  but in
particular you, Venerable Brethren, to address an
appeal  to  those  Catholics  who  hold important
positions in this industry. Let them take serious
thought of their duties and of the responsibility
which they have as children of the Church to  use
their  influence  and authority for the promotion
of principles of  sound  morality  in  the  films
which they produce or aid in producing. There are
surely  many  Catholics  among  the   executives,
directors,  authors,  and actors who take part in
this business, and it is unfortunate  that  their
influence  has not always been in accordance with
their Faith and with their ideals.  You  will  do
well, Venerable Brethren, to pledge them to bring
their  profession   into   harmony   with   their
conscience  as  respectable  men and followers of
Jesus Christ. In this as in every other field  of
the apostolate, Pastors of souls will surely find
their best fellow workers in those who  fight  in
the  ranks of Catholic Action, and in this letter
We cannot refrain from addressing to them a  warm
appeal  that  they  give to this cause their full
contribution and their unwearying  and  unfailing
activity.

From  time  to  time, the Bishops will do well to
recall to the motion picture industry that,  amid
the  cares  of  their pastoral ministry, they are
under obligation to interest themselves in  every
form  of  decent  and  healthy recreation because
they are responsible before  God  for  the  moral
welfare of their people even during their time of
leisure. The Moral Fibre of a Nation


Their sacred calling constrains them to  proclaim
clearly  and  openly  that  unhealthy  and impure
entertainment  destroys  the  moral  fibre  of  a
nation.  They  will  likewise  remind  the motion
picture industry that the demands which they make
regard   not  only  the  Catholics  but  all  who
patronize  the  cinema.   In   particular,   you,
Venerable  Brethren of the United States, will be
able to insist with justice that the industry  of
your  country  has  recognized  and  accepted its
responsibility before society.

The Bishops of the whole world will take care  to
make  clear  to the leaders of the motion picture
industry  that  a  force  of   such   power   and
universality  as the cinema can be directed, with
great utility, to the highest ends of  individual
and  social  improvement. Why indeed should there
be question merely of avoiding what is evil?  The
motion  picture  should  not be simply a means of
diversion, a light relaxation to occupy  an  idle
hour; with its magnificent power, it can and must
be a bearer of light and a positive guide to what
is  good.  And now, in view of the gravity of the
subject, We consider it timely to  come  down  to
certain practical indications.



A Yearly Promise from the Faithful



Above all, all Pastors of souls will undertake to
obtain each  year  from  their  people  a  pledge
similar  to  the  one already alluded to which is
given by their American  brothers  and  in  which
they  promise  to  stay  away from motion picture
plays  which  are  offensive  to  truth  and   to
Christian  morality.  The most efficacious manner
of obtaining these pledges or promises is through
the  parish church or school and by enlisting the
earnest cooperation of all fathers and mothers of
families   who   are  conscious  of  their  grave
responsibilities.

The Bishops will also be able to avail themselves
of the Catholic Press for the purpose of bringing
home to the  people  the  moral  beauty  and  the
effectiveness of this promise. The fulfillment of
this pledge supposes  that  the  people  be  told
plainly  which  films are permitted to all, which
are permitted with reservations,  and  which  are
harmful  or  positively  bad.  This  requires the
prompt,  regular,  and  frequent  publication  of
classified lists of motion picture plays so as to
make the information readily accessible  to  all.
Special  bulletins  or other timely publications,
such as the daily Catholic Press, may be used for
this purpose.

Were it possible, it would in itself be desirable
to establish a single list for the  entire  world
because all live under the same moral law. Since,
however, there is here question of pictures which
interest  all  classes  of society, the great and
the humble, the learned and the  unlettered,  the
judgment passed upon a film cannot be the same in
each   case   and   in   all   respects.   Indeed
circumstances,   usages,   and  forms  vary  from
country to country  so  that  it  does  not  seem
practical  to  have  a  single  list  for all the
world. If, however, films were classified in each
country   in  the  manner  indicated  above,  the
resultant  list  would  offer  in  principle  the
guidance needed.


A National Reviewing Office



Therefore,  it  will  be  necessary  that in each
country the Bishops set up a  permanent  national
reviewing  office  in order to be able to promote
good motion pictures, classify  the  others,  and
bring  this  judgment to the knowledge of priests
and faithful. It will be very proper  to  entrust
this   agency  to  the  central  organization  of
Catholic  Action  which  is  dependent   on   the
Bishops.  At  all events, it must be clearly laid
down that this service of information,  in  order
to function organically and with efficiency, must
be on a  national  basis  and  that  it  must  be
carried  on by a single centre of responsibility.
Should  grave  reasons  really  require  it,  the
Bishops,  in their own dioceses and through their
diocesan reviewing committees, will  be  able  to
apply  to  the  national  list  —  which must use
standards adaptable to the whole  nation  —  such
severer  criterions  as  may  be  demanded by the
character of the region, and they may even censor
films which were admitted to the general list.


Films in Parish Halls


The  above-mentioned  Office  will  likewise look
after the organization of existing motion picture
theatres  belonging  to  parishes and to Catholic
associations  so  that  they  may  be  guaranteed
reviewed   and   approved   films.   Through  the
organization of  these  halls,  which  are  often
known  to the cinema industry as good clients, it
will be possible to advance a new  claim,  namely
that  the  industry produce motion pictures which
conform entirely to our standards. Such films may
then  readily  be  shown not only in the Catholic
halls but also in others.  We  realize  that  the
establishment  of  such  an Office will involve a
certain  sacrifice,   a   certain   expense   for
Catholics of the various countries. Yet the great
importance  of  the  motion   picture   and   the
necessity  of  safeguarding  the  morality of the
Christian people and of the entire  nation  makes
this  sacrifice  more  than justified. Indeed the
effectiveness of our  schools,  of  our  Catholic
associations,   and   even  of  our  churches  is
lessened and endangered by the plague of evil and
pernicious motion pictures.

Care must be taken that the Office is composed of
persons who are familiar with  the  technique  of
the motion picture and who are, at the same time,
well-grounded  in  the  principles  of   Catholic
morality and doctrine. They must, in addition, be
under the guidance and the direct supervision  of
a priest chosen by the Bishops.


Exchange of Information



A  mutual  exchange  of  advice  and  information
between the Offices of the various countries will
conduce  to greater efficiency and harmony in the
work of reviewing films, while due  consideration
will   be   given   to   varying  conditions  and
circumstances.  It  will  thus  be  possible   to
achieve  unity of outlook in the judgments and in
the communications which appear in  the  Catholic
Press of the world. These Offices will profit not
only from the  experiments  made  in  the  United
States  but also from the work which Catholics in
other  countries  have  achieved  in  the  motion
picture field.

Even  if  employees of the Office — with the best
of good will and  intentions  —  should  make  an
occasional  mistake,  as  happens  in  all  human
affairs, the Bishops, in their pastoral prudence,
will  know how to apply effective remedies and to
safeguard in every possible way the authority and
prestige  of  the Office itself. This may be done
by strengthening the staff with more  influential
men   or   by  replacing  those  who  have  shown
themselves not entirely suited to so  delicate  a
position of trust. Painstaking Vigilance



If the Bishops of the world assume their share in
the exercise of this painstaking  vigilance  over
the  motion  picture  —  and  of this We who know
their pastoral zeal have no  doubt  —  they  will
certainly   accomplish   a  great  work  for  the
protection of the morality  of  their  people  in
their  hours of leisure and recreation. They will
win the approbation and the approval of all right
thinking men, Catholic and non-Catholic, and they
will help to assure that  a  great  international
force  —  the  motion picture — shall be directed
towards the noble end of  promoting  the  highest
ideals  and  the  truest  standards of life. That
these wishes and prayers which We pour forth from
a  father's  heart may gain in virtue, We implore
the help of  the  grace  of  God  and  in  pledge
thereof We impart to you, Venerable Brethren, and
to the Clergy and people entrusted  to  you,  Our
loving Apostolic Benediction.

Given  at  Rome,  at  St Peter's, the 29th day of
June, Feast of SS Peter and  Paul,  in  the  year
1936, the fifteenth of Our Pontificate.

PIUS PP. XI.


Freemasonry must die, or liberty must die." -- Charles G. Finney

FREEMASONRY IS KABBALISTIC, NOT CHRISTIAN!

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