Rejoining the Church


#1

First, I apologize if I'm posting this in the wrong section; there are so many it's tough to decide where to post my questions.

I grew up Catholic and was fully received in the Church through the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, and Eucharist). Sometime around my early 20s I basically stopped going to Mass and pretty much just disregarded the church altogether. I later started going to protestant churches and have been doing that off and on to one degree or another over the past 18 or so years. So I never left my love for Christ at the door just my belief that the Catholic Church doctrine and practices held the keys. Recently I've started looking more closely at a lot of the Catholic's church's doctrine and realized that I am truly a Catholic at heart and should return to the Church.

I'm looking for help and answer's on just how to go about doing this. I have A LOT of baggage that I'm not sure how to address in my initial confession so that I can start receiving the Eucharist again. Some highlights: I'm currently married to a baptized (but not fully received) woman and we have a baby on the way within a month or so (that I would like baptized into the Chrurch). I was married previously outside of the church to a non-baptized Catholic (she was Lutheran) and we have two children together. I have another child with a woman whom I was never married to. So clearly my choices in regards to chastity in the past fall clearly within the churches moral no-no teachings. However, having never lost site of my love of Christ, I've spent hours praying about these sins and others I felt were dragging on my soul. I know this doesn't equate to absolution by Catholic doctrine but I most certainly have been contrite over these matters and sought forgiveness from God.

With this context in mind, here are my main questions. I greatly appreciate any doctrinally-grounded advice on this matter. I appreciate encouragement but really just need to know what I need to do to get myself and my family right before God and the Church according to Catholic doctrine so we can start enjoying the fullness of Catholic Church and ensure our place in Heaven.

1) How do I go about doing a confession for over 15 years of being separated from the Church and doing lots of sinful things? Seems like this is more than what would normally be covered in a normal Saturday confessional.

2) What is the status of my current marriage? And if it's considered invalid, would I still be able to baptize our daughter before it, along with my previous marriage, was officially declared null and we had the chance to re-marry in the Church (all of which I assume is lengthy process)?

3) I received the sacraments in the Roman Catholic church so if I wanted to join a other-than-Roman church (Maronite for example), would I need to start over? Or what would it mean to do so?

Thank you
Paul

PS I don't know if any clergy read or are on these forums but if so and you're in the Minneapolis/St Pau Archdiocese please message me... Thanks


#2

Hi, Paul!

I'm going to address some of your questions, but for others, you should really consider making an appointment to speak to a parish priest. Is there one whom you know, either personally or by reputation, that you might want to speak to? If not, then maybe you could ask around for recommendations of priests who are solid in terms of doctrine and are also pastorally sensitive...

[quote="paulbright, post:1, topic:324052"]
1) How do I go about doing a confession for over 15 years of being separated from the Church and doing lots of sinful things? Seems like this is more than what would normally be covered in a normal Saturday confessional.

[/quote]

You could always call the rectory and make an appointment! Would you want to make your confession "behind the screen" or "face-to-face"?

2) What is the status of my current marriage? And if it's considered invalid, would I still be able to baptize our daughter before it, along with my previous marriage, was officially declared null and we had the chance to re-marry in the Church (all of which I assume is lengthy process)?

Let's set aside the question of the validity of your marriage -- that's one of the things that an appointment with a parish priest in your area would address. As far as the baptismal question, as long as you intend to raise your daughter in the Catholic faith, then the status of your marriage shouldn't hinder the attempt to have her baptized!

3) I received the sacraments in the Roman Catholic church so if I wanted to join a other-than-Roman church (Maronite for example), would I need to start over? Or what would it mean to do so?

You're talking about another Catholic Church that's not a Latin (i.e., Roman) Rite Catholic Church? (And yes, the Maronites are Catholic.) If so, then no -- Catholic sacraments are valid, regardless of Rite.


#3

Gorgias- thank you for the quick reply. I'm super excited to get this show on the road so I'm happy that someone replied to quickly.

In response to your questions:

Would you want to make your confession "behind the screen" or "face-to-face"?

Totally forgot it could be face-to-face, is there any difference in terms of the Sacrament itself doing face-to-face vs behind the curtain?

Is there one whom you know, either personally or by reputation, that you might want to speak to?

I don't know any clergy personally. The only cleric I know and trust is a Lutheran pastor and I'm pretty sure that's not gonna count :) However, if anyone out there has a recommendation I live in the Minneapolis/St Paul area in Minnesota.

ou're talking about another Catholic Church that's not a Latin (i.e., Roman) Rite Catholic Church?

Yes

Let's set aside the question of the validity of your marriage

I've looked into this a bit and followed some flowchart that someone here posted and likely both mine and my current wife's previous marriages would fall into the "informal" anullment process. I guess I'm most concerned about being able to baptize my daughter and as long as the Church says it's ok despite my marriage status, that puts my mind at ease. Of course I would like to undergo the proper Sacrament of marriage at some point.

Thanks again!


#4

[quote="paulbright, post:3, topic:324052"]
Gorgias- thank you for the quick reply. I'm super excited to get this show on the road so I'm happy that someone replied to quickly.

[/quote]

:thumbsup: :D

Totally forgot it could be face-to-face, is there any difference in terms of the Sacrament itself doing face-to-face vs behind the curtain?

No -- both are completely valid. It might come down to a simple decision on your part as to which way would be more comfortable for you. If you mentioned which way you'd prefer, at the time you're making the appointment, that might be helpful for the priest...!

I don't know any clergy personally.

Hmm... got any friends who might be willing to talk about which priests they love to go to confession to?

I've looked into this a bit and followed some flowchart that someone here posted and likely both mine and my current wife's previous marriages would fall into the "informal" anullment process.

Maybe, and maybe not. It's really difficult to do this kind of analysis over the internet. Your best bet is to make an appointment with your pastor (or call the tribunal and ask for a reference) and give him all the relevant information. You'll want to have all the facts and figures (dates and places and churches for baptisms/marriages -- for you, and your wife, and any of your previous spouses (and any of their previous spouses, too!)), so that he'll be able to research it and give you good advice!

I guess I'm most concerned about being able to baptize my daughter and as long as the Church says it's ok despite my marriage status, that puts my mind at ease.

Exactly. And the relevant question here is "do you intend to raise your daughter in the Catholic faith, attending Mass and making sure she's catechized properly?"...! :thumbsup:


#5

[quote="paulbright, post:1, topic:324052"]
First, I apologize if I'm posting this in the wrong section; there are so many it's tough to decide where to post my questions.

I grew up Catholic and was fully received in the Church through the sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, and Eucharist). Sometime around my early 20s I basically stopped going to Mass and pretty much just disregarded the church altogether. I later started going to protestant churches and have been doing that off and on to one degree or another over the past 18 or so years. So I never left my love for Christ at the door just my belief that the Catholic Church doctrine and practices held the keys. Recently I've started looking more closely at a lot of the Catholic's church's doctrine and realized that I am truly a Catholic at heart and should return to the Church.

I'm looking for help and answer's on just how to go about doing this. I have A LOT of baggage that I'm not sure how to address in my initial confession so that I can start receiving the Eucharist again. Some highlights: I'm currently married to a baptized (but not fully received) woman and we have a baby on the way within a month or so (that I would like baptized into the Chrurch). I was married previously outside of the church to a non-baptized Catholic (she was Lutheran) and we have two children together. I have another child with a woman whom I was never married to. So clearly my choices in regards to chastity in the past fall clearly within the churches moral no-no teachings. However, having never lost site of my love of Christ, I've spent hours praying about these sins and others I felt were dragging on my soul. I know this doesn't equate to absolution by Catholic doctrine but I most certainly have been contrite over these matters and sought forgiveness from God.

With this context in mind, here are my main questions. I greatly appreciate any doctrinally-grounded advice on this matter. I appreciate encouragement but really just need to know what I need to do to get myself and my family right before God and the Church according to Catholic doctrine so we can start enjoying the fullness of Catholic Church and ensure our place in Heaven.

1) How do I go about doing a confession for over 15 years of being separated from the Church and doing lots of sinful things? Seems like this is more than what would normally be covered in a normal Saturday confessional.

2) What is the status of my current marriage? And if it's considered invalid, would I still be able to baptize our daughter before it, along with my previous marriage, was officially declared null and we had the chance to re-marry in the Church (all of which I assume is lengthy process)?

3) I received the sacraments in the Roman Catholic church so if I wanted to join a other-than-Roman church (Maronite for example), would I need to start over? Or what would it mean to do so?

Thank you
Paul

PS I don't know if any clergy read or are on these forums but if so and you're in the Minneapolis/St Pau Archdiocese please message me... Thanks

[/quote]

paulbright,
I suggest that you pray to the Holy Spirit; contact a priest in a parish nearby; make an appointment to see him and communicate to him what you have posted here. I will also pray to the Holy Spirit to guide and assist you.


#6

As I think you're recognising, your situation is complicated, but then whose wouldn't be after 18 years.

See a priest as soon as you can, explain all of your situation openly and honestly and he will give you the guidiance that you need. It will be incredibly difficult to get answers to all of your questions over a forum as there would need to be a massive amount of back and forth - face to face with a priest will get these questions answered far faster.

Prayers and best wishes.

Martin


#7

[quote="banjo, post:5, topic:324052"]
paulbright,
I suggest that you pray to the Holy Spirit; contact a priest in a parish nearby; make an appointment to see him and communicate to him what you have posted here. I will also pray to the Holy Spirit to guide and assist you.

[/quote]

Amen! :thumbsup: All Priests act in persona Christi, and have the exact same authority over our sins. They consider it a priviliege to take our sins upon themselves and bear them up to the Father for destruction. If the penance we receive seems mild, what we have just experienced is the tender mercy of God. Just as the sailor believes "any port in a storm" we can also believe "any Priest in a sin"

Most parishes will have guides to reconciliation, which may be reviewed before the Sacrament is received. For paulbright, here is a website which was created for you: catholicscomehome.org/

And, welcome home!


#8

I don't have any advice, except to contact a priest, but I'm very happy to see you return, Paul.


#9

Wonderful you would like to rejoin the Church! I wasn't completely away, but found myself drifting farther and farther into being a person wasn't going to mass, sharing my faith, and slipping into the trap of broad-mindedness/relativism. Fortunately, I managed to realize how far down the rabbit hole I was getting and have started really putting my faith at the forefront of my life.

As far as confession goes, I had about a decade or so of things to confess. It was pretty difficult for me to get there - I was incredibly nervous. I was amazed after my confession just how loving and kind the priest was. Never fear reconciliation! It's a healing ministry, and a very powerful one at that!

As others have said, just talk to a priest. I've found that they are quite happy to help out someone who is returning to the Church. :)


#10

Welcome Home!

Yes, you will need an appointment with the priest outside the confessional, and you might have to do your confession in more than one phase - The first meeting might be just to guide you in doing a proper and full examination of conscience, which could take some time, and then the 2nd might be your actual confession. But if the priest has time, he could ask you questions as you go along. Many times the appointments are for 1/2 hour or even a full hour, which should be enough time to confess a lot of sins. I was away for over 20 years and ended up taking about 15-20 minutes but I had to repeat this process several times because there were things that I didn't even know were sins, that had to "bubble up" in my consciousness over time.

As for your marriages...Well, you'd need to bring everything to the priest, and he would also guide you in whether you'd need to apply for an annulment. If not, you'd have some paperwork to fill out. If yes, then you'd have some more paperwork to fill out and you'd have to wait a little longer. I don't quite understand how you describe your previous wife as a non-baptized Catholic (but Lutheran?), nor how your current wife can be "baptized but not received." If your current wife was baptized as an adult, then she is Catholic because she has received all the sacraments of initiation. But you can clarify all of this to your priest, and he will tell you what to do next. Take it one step at a time.

Glad you're here and are on the journey Home!

:thumbsup:


#11

Our Lord never gives up on us and it looks like you’re opening your mind, heart and will, opening up your heart to His! You will not regret this process of healing and ever-closer union with our Lord and His Church!

It looks like you will need to speak with a priest about your marriage situation outside of the confessional, prior to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Because you as a Catholic remarried after a divorce, the Church cannot consider your current marital situation as a valid one until the marriage issue is worked out. So he would most likely not be able to absolve you of your sins until that is done, unless you and your wife agree to live as brother and sister until all is resolved.

Some highlights: I’m currently married to a baptized (but not fully received) woman and we have a baby on the way within a month or so (that I would like baptized into the Chrurch). I was married previously outside of the church to a non-baptized Cathol (she was Lutheran) and we have two children together. I have another child with a woman whom I was never married to.

The previous posters are correct that you need to speak with a priest about your marriage situation, because of the specifics involved.

For example, because you are Catholic (whether practicing or not), you are required to marry in the Catholic Church. For marriage #1, you were married outside of the Church (without permission from the bishop), and the Church cannot recognize the marriage as a valid one due to “defect of form”. But you still need to provide the evidence by completing the petition form for that process and supplying some documents (baptismal certificate, marriage license and divorce decree). The pastor, or his delegate, would help you do that, and they would send it to the diocesan Marriage Tribunal. That process wouldn’t take very long.

After the “defect of form” process is completed, you and your wife need to work on convalidating your marriage (which means to make it valid in the eyes of the Church). In other words, your current marriage is not valid in the eyes of the Church, and you and your wife would participate in the Rite of Matrimony with two witnesses and a priest or deacon. However, prior to this taking place, there would be a process of discernment and preparation. The pastor is required to ensure that the two of you understand what the Church teaches about marriage, the pastor needs to be assured that you are tending to your parenting responsibilities for all your children. The Church does not require that your wife be Catholic, but you would need to agree to do all that you can to raise your children in the Catholic faith.

…I appreciate encouragement but really just need to know what I need to do to get myself and my family right before God and the Church according to Catholic doctrine so we can start enjoying the fullness of Catholic Church and ensure our place in Heaven.

  1. How do I go about doing a confession for over 15 years of being separated from the Church and doing lots of sinful things? Seems like this is more than what would normally be covered in a normal Saturday confessional.

You can ask your pastor to give you some guidance to prepare for the sacrament, during the “petition for defect of form” process. God has graced you with an aching to be “right” with Him. Allow this purifying ache to continue, with daily examination of conscience and with an increasing resolve to do God’s will on a daily basis. Attend Sunday Mass every week, and do what you can to keep learning about the faith. Rejoice that there is never a sin too big for Christ to forgive, and there are never too many sins.

  1. What is the status of my current marriage? And if it’s considered invalid, would I still be able to baptize our daughter before it, along with my previous marriage, was officially declared null and we had the chance to re-marry in the Church (all of which I assume is lengthy process)?

Re: baptizing your daughter, this is an issue for your pastor to decide. Your desire to bring your daughter into the Church is beautiful!


#12

[quote="TheRealJuliane, post:10, topic:324052"]
I don't quite understand how you describe your previous wife as a non-baptized Catholic (but Lutheran?)

[/quote]

I took it to mean "baptized (Christian) non-Catholic"; that is, baptized in the Lutheran church.

your current wife can be "baptized but not received."

I took it to mean "baptized but not confirmed".


#13

Thanks to all responders, I'll write more later in response to other posts but Gorgias has got it right. My ex-wife is not Catholic and we were married in the Lutheran church. And my current wife was baptized Catholic but not confirmed.

[quote="Gorgias, post:12, topic:324052"]
I took it to mean "baptized (Christian) non-Catholic"; that is, baptized in the Lutheran church.

I took it to mean "baptized but not confirmed".

[/quote]


#14

[quote="quiet52, post:11, topic:324052"]
So he would most likely not be able to absolve you of your sins until that is done, unless you and your wife agree to live as brother and sister until all is resolved.

[/quote]

The notion of "living as brother and sister" is a pastoral consideration: it's not something that a priest is obligated to propose or even consider. While it's something that some priests might suggest, it's also something that some priests won't even mention. So, it's nothing that a person should think is definitely on the table. ;)

After the "defect of form" process is completed, you and your wife need to work on convalidating your marriage (which means to make it valid in the eyes of the Church).

Hold on a second, though! You're forgetting that Paul's wife had a previous marriage, as well. We don't know anything about the circumstances surrounding that marriage. So, before they'd get around to thinking about a convalidation for their current marriage, there'd have to be a resolution on her previous marriage (in much the same way as there has to be a resoluion on Paul's previous marriage;)). This might be a similar 'lack of form' case, but we cannot make that determination here in this forum. So, Paul will have to talk about this, as well, with a priest (or tribunal advocate). It's not insurmountable, but it's something that would have to be addressed. (Nevertheless, neither the presence of the previous marriages, nor the present marital situation, necessarily makes it impossible for a baptism for Paul's daughter.)

You can ask your pastor to give you some guidance to prepare for the sacrament, during the "petition for defect of form" process.

("Lack of form", not "defect of form". Lack of form is when a Catholic doesn't attempt to follow the Catholic requirements of form for marriage; defect of form is when a Catholic attempts to follow the requirements, but something happens that fails to meet the requirements.)


#15

All very interesting and enlightening responses. Again thank you to everyone who has responded. The reason I brought up that I was not a practicing Catholic at the time I married my ex-wife and my current wife is because I've read some places (on this forum and elsewhere) about one having to be conscious of a particular sin and intent to commit the sin despite knowing it's a sin in order for it to be a mortal sin. I was raised Catholic and received four of the seven sacraments however I can tell you that not until recently when I started to investigate on my own that it was ever clear to me that I was in a state of mortal sin by not getting married in the Catholic church. The last time I had attended church in my early 20s I was not even thinking about marriage so it just never occurred to me nor was it presented to me the Church's doctrine on marriage (all I remember being taught is that it was not ok to have sex outside of being married).

Both times I've been married I purposely got married in a church by an ordained pastor (Lutheran) because it was important to both of us to be represented and joined before God. I only say that to say this: in mind at the time of both my previous and current marriage I was basically unaware that I was entering into an invalid marriage. I guess what I'm talking about here is invincible vs vincible ignorance. And of course it's arguable whether or not I was ignorant of the law (invincible ignorance) because presumably anyone who has been taught the Catholic catechism would know the law. However, where it becomes unclear is does forgetting or simply never having been taught to the appropriate measure in order to retain such knowledge, qualify as invincible ignorance? I would argue yes but I realize it may not be that simple. I'm willing to jump through hoops and take whatever steps needed in order get myself and my family right before God and the Church. But in my case it's not simply a matter of I left the Catholic church in order to get married in another church knowing full well that I would be living in sin according to Catholic doctrine by doing so.

The honest truth is that I believed I was getting married in a way that was not sinful and it was never my intention to live in sin by getting married (if I would have wanted to live in sin, would it have not been better to just stay unmarried and be promiscuous?). And after my first marriage dissolved and I was divorced (by civil law) I went through a process of repentance and reconciliation (through prayer and in person) in which I thought I was good to go to marry again. This happened because I was lead astray by the liberal teachings of the protestant church I belonged to and because I was too influenced by secular thinking (I should not have been allowed to marry the first time at all). All of which is part of the reason I have recently returned to seeking the truth found in the Catholic church's teaching :-)

ANY WAY, all the responses so far have gone a long way in answering some of my initial questions. I realize that nothing will be fully settled or resolved until I talk to an actual parish priest. Right now my problem is that I do not know any priests nor do I belong to any parish nor do I have any attachments to any parishes. So really I just need a place to start which I assume will be just picking any random parish in my area and making a phone call to set up a meeting with the priest to discuss all of this. However, my biggest fear is that it seems like so much is left up to the discretion of the individual priest (as someone mentioned that one priest might do this and another that) and that I won't choose a priest that fully understands or cares to understand my situation. Which is why I wanted to solicit some ideas and get an idea of what Catholic doctrine had to say on the matter before I start subjecting myself to whims of a particular priest (and I say this very lightly as I know all priests do have to follow doctrine for the most part).

And one last note, my current wife (who was baptized Catholic but never confirmed) was previously married to someone who was not Catholic at all. She also has been making this journey with me and is ready to join the Church and commit to raising our children Catholic.

At the end of the day like I said I just want to set things right with God and the Church. Jesus clearly says that all who repent their sins and walk in faith will be received into his arms. I've made my confession to him directly and he knows the condition of my heart regarding all of these things. Now I just need to make things right with His church so I can start living with the blessing of all the sacraments again. SOOOOOO I will continue to pray to Holy Spirit to guide my path and I welcome and appreciate your prayers as well.

Thanks again!


#16

Woops, OK, now another marriage to deal with...

What I would do if it were me (and your situation is not that different from my own, when I came back) - I'd first go to Mass at the parish nearest my house (that's probably going to be "your" parish, where you are supposed to attend). See what the priest is like, see if the church is pretty orthodox, or not. Then, if I got a good solid impression, I'd call in at the parish office and just explain that I need to see the priest at his earliest convenience. In the meantime, gather ALL of the documents that you can. This would include your baptismal certificate (get one by calling the church where you were baptized), your confirmation record, etc. You'll need your divorce decree. Have your wife get her baptismal certificate and divorce decree. I can't remember if I had to get confirmed before we got married, or if we had to get married for me to get confirmed, probably the latter.

You've got your hands full, that's for sure. But take it one step at a time, and do what you need to do to straighten yourself out. Your daughter will be baptized in due time, and you'll truly have a sacramental marriage.


#17

Well I just read our Archdiocese’s tribunal website pages and I can see that sorting all my (un)marriage issues out will be not be an easy task… Nor a cheap one and being I can barely afford to pay the cost to have one marriage nullified, I don’t see us getting all this worked out to the point where my wife and I can have a valid marriage for a long time. Like I said though, I’ll pray and I know God will come through one way or another. I made the mess so now I gotta endure whatever it takes to get it cleaned up :wink:

Peace


#18

[quote="TheRealJuliane, post:16, topic:324052"]
Woops, OK, now another marriage to deal with...
But take it one step at a time, and do what you need to do to straighten yourself out. Your daughter will be baptized in due time, and you'll truly have a sacramental marriage.

[/quote]

Great advice, thank you and God bless


#19

First, glad to hear that you have decided to return to the Church. You have had plenty of good advice on the marriage issues. The only thing I would add is that most diocese will work with you on the cost. I have as yet to hear of a tribunal that would flat out refuse to investigate simply for lack of funds.

One item that may or may not come up with regard to baptism of your child. The church requires that at least one parent be a practicing Catholic. Obviously you are working on becoming a praticing Cathllic again. Because it is a sacrament you are asking for on behalf of your child many parishes require parents (and sometimes godparents) to attend baptismal classes. They also often like to see the parents be registered in the parish for some amount of time (3, 6, ? months). Unfortunately a number of people ask for baptism who have not been in the church for years and likely won't bring their child back until first communion. I don't believe that is the case with you, but the reason I bring this up is to make you aware that the priest might wish for the baptism to be delayed given such a recent return to the Church. This may or may not happen but wanted you to be prepared for the possibility so that you aren't caught unaware and become discouraged given all you are facing.

Again, welcome home. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.


#20

[quote="Gorgias, post:14, topic:324052"]
The notion of "living as brother and sister" is a pastoral consideration: it's not something that a priest is obligated to propose or even consider. While it's something that some priests might suggest, it's also something that some priests won't even mention. So, it's nothing that a person should think is definitely on the table. ;)

[/quote]

Gorgias, what counts is the diocesan marriage norms, although it is true that there are pastors who seem to ignore them and who sadly fail to instruct the couple that sexual activity would not be moral until they are validly married. Check your diocesan marriage norms - I think you will find what I posted to be correct. This is from the marriage preparation norms in my diocese: "If the couple refuses to separate or if the couple already has children, they should be counseled to arrange for separate sleeping accommodations. In such a case, they are to be informed of the danger of leaving themselves in a situation of temptation to sin. Also, they are to be informed of the scandal that they give to others in cohabiting and in appearing to be living in the state of grave sin."

Hold on a second, though! You're forgetting that Paul's wife had a previous marriage, as well. We don't know anything about the circumstances surrounding that marriage. So, before they'd get around to thinking about a convalidation for their current marriage, there'd have to be a resolution on her previous marriage (in much the same way as there has to be a resoluion on Paul's previous marriage;)). This might be a similar 'lack of form' case, but we cannot make that determination here in this forum. So, Paul will have to talk about this, as well, with a priest (or tribunal advocate). It's not insurmountable, but it's something that would have to be addressed. (Nevertheless, neither the presence of the previous marriages, nor the present marital situation, necessarily makes it impossible for a baptism for Paul's daughter.)

I missed that -- I didn't realize wife #2 also has a previous marriage. Yes, she needs to talk with the priest too.

("Lack of form", not "defect of form". Lack of form is when a Catholic doesn't attempt to follow the Catholic requirements of form for marriage; defect of form is when a Catholic attempts to follow the requirements, but something happens that fails to meet the requirements.)

Yes, you are right, it's lack of form. Got it confused with defect of consent.


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