Father Robert Barron

Father Barron v. Bart Ehrman: No Contest

 

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In the category of mismatched adversaries, Father Barron gives us a striking example today:

In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated ad nauseam in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death.  Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery.

But basically, it’s the same old story.  When I was a teenager, I read British Biblical scholar Hugh Schonfield’s Passover Plot, which lays out the same narrative, and just a few months ago, I read Reza Aslan’s Zealot, which pursues a very similar line, and I’m sure next Christmas or Easter I will read still another iteration of the theory.

And so, once more into the breach.  Ehrman’s major argument for the thesis that Jesus did not consider himself divine is that explicit statements of Jesus’s divine identity can be found only in the later fourth Gospel of John, whereas the three Synoptic Gospels, earlier and thus presumably more historically reliable, do not feature such statements from Jesus himself or the Gospel writers.  This is so much nonsense.  It is indeed the case that the most direct affirmations of divinity are found in John — “I and the Father are one;” “before Abraham was I am;” “He who sees me sees the Father,” etc.

But equally clear statements of divinity are on clear display in the Synoptics, provided we know how to decipher a different semiotic system.

For example, in Mark’s Gospel, we hear that as the apostolic band is making its way toward Jerusalem with Jesus, “they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mk. 10:32).  Awe and terror are the typical reactions to the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament.  Similarly, when Matthew reports that Jesus, at the beginning of the last week of his earthly life, approached Jerusalem from the east, by way of Bethpage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives, he is implicitly affirming Ezekiel’s prophecy that the glory of the Lord, which had departed from his temple, would return from the east, by way of the Mount of Olives.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the crippled man who had been lowered through the roof of Peter’s house, saying, “My son, your sins are forgiven,” to which the bystanders respond, “Who does this man think he is?  Only God can forgive sins.”  What is implied there is a Christology as high as anything in John’s Gospel.

And affirmations of divinity on the lips of Jesus himself positively abound in the Synoptics.  When he says, in Matthew’s Gospel, “He who does not love me more than his mother or father is not worthy of me,” he is implying that he himself is the greatest possible good.  When in Luke’s Gospel, he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” he is identifying himself with the very Word of God.  When he says in Matthew’s Gospel, in reference to himself, “But I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here,” he is affirming unambiguously that he is divine, since for first century Jews, only Yahweh himself would be greater than the Jerusalem Temple.  Perhaps most remarkably, when he says, almost as a tossed-off aside at the commencement of the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard it said, but I say…” he is claiming superiority to the Torah, which was the highest possible authority for first century Jews.  But the only one superior to the Torah would be the author of the Torah, namely God himself.

Obviously examples such as these from the Synoptic authors could be multiplied indefinitely.  The point is that the sharp demarcation between the supposedly “high” Christology of John and the “low” Christology of the Synoptics, upon which the Ehrman thesis depends, is simply wrong-headed. Continue reading

Andrew Cuomo, Father Barron and Alexis de Tocqueville

Statue of Bigotry

Hattip to cartoonist Michael Ramirez for his brilliant Statue of Bigotry cartoon.  A guest post by commenter John By Any Other Name:

 

 

Father Robert Barron, who no one could credibly call a firebrand, had a post at National Review Online that caught my attention:

“In the course of a radio interview, Governor Andrew Cuomo blithely declared that anyone who is pro-life on the issue of abortion or who is opposed to gay marriage is “not welcome” in his state of New York. Mind you, the governor did not simply say that such people are wrong-headed or misguided; he didn’t say that they should be opposed politically or that good arguments against their position should be mounted; he said they should be actively excluded from civil society!”

The good guv’ner somewhat walked back his comments, trying to spin it that it wasn’t that people who were pro-life, pro-”assault weapons” and “anti-gay” (these were the other two descriptors Cuomo used) weren’t welcome, just that they would have a hard time winning office in the state.  Yet, Father Barron properly captures the evil of this in his observation: “they should be actively excluded from civil society!”
This is precisely what Alexis de Tocqueville was discussing in the below quote.  I stumbled across this one while looking for another quote from Democracy in America.  I confess I haven’t actually read the book, though it’s on my reading list after I finish the Knox translation of the Bible and a few other important books.  Emphasis is mine.

Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way, however. It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: You will think as I do or die. He says: You are free not to think as I do. You may keep your life, your property, and everything else.  But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us. You will retain your civic privileges, but they will be of no use to you. For if you seek the votes of your fellow citizens, they will withhold them, and if you seek only their esteem, they will feign to refuse even that. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure. And even those who believe in your innocence will abandon you, lest they, too, be shunned in turn. Go in peace, I will not take your life, but the life I leave you with is worse than  death. Continue reading

Lent in a Sinless Age

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I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment.  Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year.  Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent.  It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life.  This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.

Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing.  Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong.  A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all.  Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.

Now we live in a new and glorious day!  If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it.  Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior.  If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price.  Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago?  Not a problem!   We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours.  We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”.  We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as “government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid.  Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case.  Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.

Continue reading

Feast Day of the Angelic Doctor

 

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As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.” The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that. This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ’s distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ.
But St. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane. It presents itself chiefly, perhaps, to the modern world as the only creed in which the poets can be sane. For there is nobody now to settle the Manichees; and all culture is infected with a faint unclean sense that Nature and all things behind us and below us are bad; that there is only praise to the highbrow in the height. St. Thomas exalted God without lowering Man; he exalted Man without lowering Nature. Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra viventium; a land of the living.
His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense.
He does not torture the brain with desperate attempts to explain existence by explaining it away. The first steps of his mind are the first steps of any honest mind; just as the first virtues of his creed could be those of any honest peasant.

G.K. Chesterton Continue reading

Father Barron Reviews For Greater Glory

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The Blu Ray and DVD releases of For Greater Glory are coming out on September 11, 2012For Greater Glory tells the story of the Cristeros who bravely fought for religious freedom and the Church in the 1920s in Mexico.  I heartily recommend this film.  The above video is Father Robert Barron’s insightful review of the film.   (I believe he is too sanguine as to the effectiveness of purely non-violent movements in the face of regimes who don’t care how many people they kill, but that is a debate for another day.)   The below video has additional remarks by Father Barron on the film.  Go here for my review of the film. Continue reading

Solidarity and the Welfare State

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An interesting look at Paul Ryan by Father Barron based upon the twin poles of Catholic social teaching:  subsidiarity and solidarity.  It is easy to see how the welfare state, consolidating ever more power in the central government, is destructive of subsidiarity.  What is often overlooked however, is how destructive the welfare state tends to be also of solidarity.

1.  A welfare state by its nature needs government employees, and lots of them.  We are seeing in our time how the interests of these employees and the populations they purportedly serve often clash.  Think, for example, teachers unions and school choice.

2.  A welfare state, once it reaches a large enough size, becomes a crushing burden on the economy.  Paradoxically, the welfare state which is meant to alleviate poverty, ends by increasing it.

3.  As governmental power and scope grows through a welfare state, elections tend to become much more important to ever larger segments of the population, as society increasingly divides between those who receive benefits and those who pay the taxes to provide the benefits.

4.  By increasing dependence upon government, the welfare state lessens the initiative among a great many people to not only improve their own lot through their efforts, but also the lot of their families.

5.  Welfare states tend to become substitute husbands for low-income women and substitute fathers for the children born to single low-income women.  The impact upon illegitimacy rates is as obvious as it is destructive of the family, the basic building block of solidarity in any society. Continue reading

Real Freedom Isn’t Something Caesar Can Give or Take Away

 

 

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Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops had a Fortnight For Freedom:

On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First,  Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

 

Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to  highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic  institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation  with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to  defend our most cherished freedom.

 

The fourteen days from June  21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to  July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for  freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face  of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More,  St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the  Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our  Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that  would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for  religious liberty.

At the closing mass for the Fortnight of Freedom on July 4, 2012 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Charles Chaput delivered this homily on freedom:

 

 

Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the  United States Constitution were written. For more than two centuries, these  documents have inspired people around the globe. So as we begin our reflection  on today’s readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today — and  every person watching or listening from a distance — in the name of the Church  of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country’s liberty and  the city of our nation’s founding. May God bless and guide all of us as we  settle our hearts on the word of God.

Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once  described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is  going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil,  yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids. … He alone has  liberty in a world of slaves.”

Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and  clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he  wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in  anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a  lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that  murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He  knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.

We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a  different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the  reason we come together in worship this afternoon. Continue reading

Fortnight For Freedom Day 2: Martyrs for the Liberty of the Church

 

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The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand.  They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom.  They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter.  More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook.  He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness.  Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”

Sir Winston Churchill

 

 

Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:

On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First,  Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to  highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic  institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation  with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to  defend our most cherished freedom.

The fourteen days from June  21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to  July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for  freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face  of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More,  St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the  Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our  Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that  would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for  religious liberty.

We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day.  This is the second of these blog posts.

June 22, is the feast day of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher, the two great martyrs of the Church who died for the liberty of the Church when King Henry VIII, in order to secure a divorce, sundered the Catholic Church in England from the Catholic Church and placed this new Anglican Church under his control.  Throughout her history the Church has stood foursquare against the attempts by governments to exercised domination over her, and More and Fisher were two in a very long line of martyrs who have died fighting against such attempts.

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Father Barron and Edmund Burke on Atheism

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We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness, by throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization amongst us, and amongst many other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition might take place of it.

Father Barron Explains What the Obama Administration Means by “Freedom of Worship”

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Ashley Samelson McGuire of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty noted the use of the term “Freedom of Worship” rather than the usual “Freedom of Religion” by Obama back in 2010 in several speeches:

Freedom of worship” first appeared in a high profile speech in Obama’s remarks at the memorial for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting last November, a few months after his Cairo speech. Speaking to the crowd gathered to commemorate the victims, President Obama said, “We’re a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses.” Given the religious tension that marked the tragic incident, it was not an insignificant event at which to unveil a new way of referring to our First Freedom.

 
Shortly after his remarks at Ft. Hood, President Obama left for his trip to Asia, where he repeatedly referred to “freedom of worship,” and not once to “freedom of religion.”

 
Not long after his return, “freedom of worship” appeared in two prominent speeches delivered by Secretary Clinton. In her address to Georgetown University outlining the Obama Administration’s human rights agenda she used “freedom of worship” three times, “freedom of religion,” not once. About a month later, in an address to Senators on internet freedom at the Newseum, the phrase popped up in her lingo once again.

 
To anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling.
The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship. It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves—yet “freedom of worship” would protect none of these acts of faith.

 

 
Those who would limit religious practice to the cathedral and the home are the very same people who would strip the public square of any religious presence. They are working to tear down roadside memorial crosses built to commemorate fallen state troopers in Utah, to strip “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, and they recently stopped a protester from entering an art gallery because she wore a pro-life pin.

 
The effort to squash religion into the private sphere is on the rise around the world. And it’s not just confined to totalitarian regimes like Saudi Arabia. In France, students at public schools cannot wear headscarves, yarmulkes, or large crucifixes. The European Court of Human Rights has banned crucifixes from the walls of Italian schools. In Indonesia, the Constitutional Court is reviewing a law that criminalizes speech considered “blasphemous” to other faiths. Efforts to trim religion into something that fits neatly in one’s pocket is the work of dictators, not democratic leaders. So why then have our leaders taken a rhetorical scalpel to the concept of religious freedom? Continue reading

Father Barron on the HHS Mandate

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Over at National Review Online, Father Robert Barron has, as usual, a perceptive take on what the HHS Mandate means:

The secularist state wants Catholicism off the public stage and relegated to a private realm where it cannot interfere with secularism’s totalitarian agenda. I realize that in using that particular term, I’m dropping a rhetorical bomb, but I am not doing so casually. A more tolerant liberalism allows, not only for freedom of worship, but also for real freedom of religion, which is to say, the expression of religious values in the public square and the free play of religious ideas in the public conversation. Most of our founding fathers advocated just this type of liberalism. But there is another modality of secularism — sadly on display in the current administration — that is actively aggressive toward religion, precisely because it sees religion as its primary rival in the public arena. Continue reading

Bringing Tim Tebow & Others To The Fullness of Truth That Is The Catholic Church

A very interesting debate broke out recently following my article on the attacks Denver Quarterback Tim Tebow is coming under from militant liberal secularists concerning his public displays of faith. Catholic writer David L Gray wrote this piece and of course there have been many others. The debate shifted to Tim Tebow’s father who is an Evangelical leader and who takes missionary groups to Catholic countries like the Philippines so the people can “Hear the Gospel.” These kinds of statements either make Catholics laugh or get them angry. Whenever I hear these groups say that they are taking the Gospel into Catholic countries I think we should all say, “We have been preaching the Gospel since before the Canon of the Bible came to be,” or “When did your church start?  Actually, we have been under the same management for 2,000 years.” The crux of the matter is how do we willingly lead people to a place we think they most certainly want to go?

I have always found that outside of a few fundamentalist crackpots, most Evangelicals respect us when we humbly but boldly tell them about Church History, Apostolic Succession, the Real Presence and other Sacraments. Why? They sincerely want to know all they can about Jesus and with the aforementioned they aren’t even getting the Readers Digest version let alone the Fullness of Truth.

In some ways Evangelicals are the low hanging fruit of the religious world. They are eager people who want to know Jesus and boy can we show them Jesus. What about the Catholic Church Abuse scandals some say; shouldn’t that prevent them from coming home to Rome? Evangelicals are familiar with scandals, in many ways they have a belief that if a scandal brews it is the work of the devil and where the devil is you know that somewhere nearby the Gospel is being preached, otherwise the devil wouldn’t be there. The devil doesn’t waste his time fighting against with fluff, because fluff never saved souls. I dare say that some Evangelicals might also take to sites such as this or even sites like Michael Brown’s Spirit Daily that delve a little into Catholic Eschatology.

Some may say what about Catholics who have fallen away? Of course it is important for our lost brothers and sisters to come home. However, many are working on that, including Catholics Come Home which is doing amazing work bringing Catholics back home. Recently in Phoenix, 92,000 fallen away Catholics registered in Phoenix parishes thanks to a concerted diocesan campaign implement by Catholics Come Home, which included commercials on television and radio.

Some may say that reconciling the split with the Orthodox Church which took place in 1056 is the most important step, after all aren’t they closest to us in ideology and practice, and hasn’t reconciliation with the Orthodox Church been the primary push by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI? Yes the last two pontiffs have made a big push with our liturgical friends to the East. However, here are a couple of points. There are more Evangelicals in the United States alone than there are Orthodox Christians in the entire English speaking world. Time is running out to bring our Evangelical brothers and sisters home. Why? Sadly most Evangelical organized churches outside the Southern Baptists are in a statistical freefall due to being raided by non-denominational mega churches. These mega churches which are increasingly becoming entertainment oriented churches have no sound theology to which to build their foundation. We all know what Jesus said about what you need to build your foundation on.  (You might want to read the following article one on what liberals have done to churches in an article entitled: If You Want Liberals To Run Governments Look At What They Have Done To Religion; Left It In Tatters & the effect of entertainment churches on society in an article entitled; Margaritaville Christianity, God’s Way or Our Way?

This leads us to one of the most underreported religious stories of the year; the Catholic Diocese of Orange, California buying Dr. Robert Schuler’s Crystal Cathedral, the nation’s first mega church which had gone bankrupt.  Some folks got caught up in the argument over whether a Catholic Church could even use something that hardly looks like a traditional church. However, think of the significance of the event. Rev, Robert Schuler was such a powerful name, his words were listened to and his church started an entire movement. Yet, look where his church ended up, going back home to Rome. What a metaphor for going full circle back to the Fullness of Truth, the Catholic Church.

While working on our upcoming national cable television show Non Negotiable, Producer & Director Christian Peschken talked about this very subject. Christian implored me that I needed to make this a bigger deal than it already was going to be for my upcoming book. He felt the symbolism of this the nation’s first and once most powerful mega church being turned over to the Catholic Church could not be understated. They who built their foundation on sand have now put their foundation on the Rock of Peter. Continue reading

The Catholicism Project

Word On Fire Catholic Minstries is currently working on The Catholicism Project and is in the final stages of being completed.  It is a groundbreaking documentary series presenting the true story of Christianity and the Catholic faith, which comes in an especially timely moment in human history.

The following is a short trailer professionally done with Father Robert Barron showing snippets from footage that is being targeted for release by Christmas 2010 A.D.

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