Rorate Caeli

Summorum Notes: The priest's unalienable right to the Traditional Mass
The significance of "Private Masses"

Dear Priests of the entire world, cherish and make full and good use of this document: it is not the property of "estranged minorities"; it is not the domain of "nostalgic clerics"; it belongs to all of you, it is your charter of liturgical freedom. (from our Axes of Interpretation)

Under Summorum Pontificum, Masses without the people ("private Masses") will be particularly important, first and foremost for priests, but also particularly for small groups of faithful. The right of all priests in the Latin Church to celebrate their private Masses in the extraordinary form (Missal of Bl. John XXIII) is clear. Not only that: the law, in one of its most important articles, establishes a clear equivalence of rights for both forms in the celebration of private Masses. The priest shall choose that which is more convenient for him, or to which he is more attached, or... it does not matter why, his motivations for choosing either Missal for his private Masses are absolutely immaterial: the law does not establish any condition whatsoever and no permission is ever necessary (Art. 2: Ad talem celebrationem secundum unum alterumve Missale, sacerdos nulla eget licentia, nec Sedis Apostolicae nec Ordinarii sui), and the establishment of any additional condition is illicit (general principles of Canon Law are objectively applicable and cannot hinder the celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form).

This also means that no authority whosoever may curtail the right of priests to celebrate private Masses in the extraordinary form (for instance, of a priest visiting a shrine). Let us recall that additional conditions and permissions apply only to article 5 provisions (that is, "public Masses"). The rector of a shrine may act upon art. 5, § 5 (which applies to "public Masses"), according to the general rules set in article 5, but he must not discriminate between private Masses of visiting priests: all priests in good standing (Art. 5, § 4: idonei... ac iure non impediti) are allowed to say private Mass according to the form of their choice.

That the lay faithful may attend private Masses has always been the case: and, just to avoid any misinterpretation of the latitude awarded to priests and faithful, art.4 makes clear that these Masses (which all priests may celebrate everywhere, as Summorum comes into effect) may be attended by the faithful who ask to be admitted, with no special authorization (admitti possunt, servatis de iure servandis, etiam christifideles qui sua sponte id petunt).

There is no doubt that the wide, complete, and absolute liberation of private Masses in either form (Summorum considers both of identical legal importance for such Masses), with the full licitness of the attendance of the lay faithful is the most far-reaching measure enacted by the act - if priests wish to enjoy the great liberating right which the Pope has recognized as theirs and if the faithful are wise enough to approach those priests who may be willing to celebrate according to the extraordinary form. Private Masses with the attendance of lay faithful may be particularly appropriate in those areas in which there are not exactly "groups" of lay faithful interested in the Traditional Mass, as well as in the initial steps in the formation of "groups stably constituted".


  1. "Private Mass": this expression is mentioned here due to its persistent use; it is "to be avoided", according to the General Rubrics of the Roman Missal (promulgated with Rubricarum Instructum, 1960)

  2. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Although the new norms are to take effect September 14, the Pope says that the 2962 Missal was never abrogated. Does that mean that a priest can start using the 1962 Missal for "private Masses" even now?

  3. new catholic:

    I ma having trouble keeping track of things. I just posted some information about Mons. Mario Marini in the hope whoever reads it will relax a little about the seriouness of the Pope and why Marini has just been appointed.

    As to the other Marini, what exactly is the status of the MC?

    I have a good hope that Friday 14th will see the Holy Father publicly offer Mass per 1962.

  4. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I was under the impression that the 62 Missal was never an issue in the case of private masses. The only problem prior to the latest motu proprio concerned public masses.

    Even so, it is truly just and availing to our salvation that once more, the salvation of souls is placed at a higher priority than politics.

    I confess that I am not a traditionalist. I am more akin to the reform of the reform movement. But I rejoice because the two rites are not seen as diametrically opposite despite the 'fact' that the Missal of Paul VI was fabricated.

    I must admit unashamedly that I still do believe that the Missal of Paul VI has its benefits despite it being abused all the time.

    Then again, so what if many Catholics do not like the New Missal. It is really not a big deal. Now traditionalists have a choice and Deo Gratias for that.

    I pray that the Tridentine Mass will be able to steer the Church in the right direction as it always has prior to Vatican II.

    With all due respect to the Pauline Mass, the Tridentine Mass is indeed the Mass of Vatican II. The liberals should not deny that.

    May the Tridentine Mass live on to influence the 'New Mass'.


  5. "I was under the impression that the 62 Missal was never an issue in the case of private masses. The only problem prior to the latest motu proprio concerned public masses."

    That is not correct. Neither Quattuor abhinc annos nor Ecclesia Dei had rules on the matter, which remained in a legal penumbra - and which is why the Supreme Legislator had to state it clearly in articles 2 and 4 of Summorum. The "Note on the Obligation of the Use of the New Roman Missal" issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship (which Chris Gillibrand has curiously enough re-posted today) stated the following (1974):

    "With regard to the regulations issued by this sacred congregation in favor of priests who, on account of advanced years or infirm health, find it difficult to use the new Order of the Roman Missal or the Mass Lectionary: it is clear that an ordinary may grant permission to use, in whole or in part, the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, with the changes introduced by the Decrees of 1965 and 1967. But this permission can only be granted for Masses celebrated without a congregation."

    Even this permission (which would have certainly "expired" by now, 33 years later) did not make clear if the faithful could be admitted to attend such "Masses without a Congregation" (the new name of "Masses without the people"), which only ask for the presence of a server in the "ordinary form".

    Both matters are completely clarified in articles 2 and 4 of Summorum.

  6. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Moreover, more recently:

  7. Anonymous7:15 PM

    A great work--indeed the greatest--on the value/importance of private Masses vis-a-vis concelebrated Masses, that is "Le Salut du Monde", by Fr. Joseph De Sainte-Marie will soon be published in English. Soon = 1 year or so. Keep your eyes and ears ready.

  8. Isaac said...

    "May the Tridentine Mass live on..."

    The Holy Mass, that cannot die,
    Was said amidst the oaks,
    While pin-oak leaves came floating down
    Around the simple folks,

    Who knelt upon the acorn floor,
    All dotted nutty brown.
    The acorns cracked and old knees snapped,
    Yet still there was no sound...

    But the tinkling of the golden bells
    As the White Host Son rose high,
    On priestly limbs, like mighty oaks,
    They branched up to the sky.

    And in that wood, I laughed with joy,
    Amongst the souls bowed down,
    For the mighty oak was once a nut
    That merely held it's ground.

    So Christian souls, like acorn nuts,
    Must burrow all around
    And be the seed that sprouts new oaks
    On consecrated ground...

    Where the Holy Mass, that cannot die,
    Is said around the oaks,
    While pin-oak leaves come floating down
    Amidst a mighty folk!

  9. New Catholic I don't know if you want to post this front and center:

    LIVE TONIGHT ON EWTN. (internet stream available see below)


    Discussion of the newly- released papal document by Pope Benedict XVI widening use of the 1962 Roman Missal.
    Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska
    Monsignor James Moroney, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy
    Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, Editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review
    Most Rev. Thomas G. Doran, Bishop of Rockford, Illinois
    Fr. George Gabet, FSSP, North American District Superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
    JULY 9th, 2100hrs EST-USA


    or copy and paste.

  10. What an honor I believe it is to be present at a private Mass a priest is saying. I have had the privelege on several occasions to be present when a priest who used to be in our parish, would say private Mass on his day off, before leaving for the morning. He would say the Mass according to the 1962 Missal. I sure miss this since he is no longer in my area. Maybe now this will be seen more often with the new Summorum Pontificum established

  11. Well that was interesting: there was, I thought, something worrying about Monsignor James Moroney, Executive Director of the USCCB, Secretariat for the Liturgy, believing one could use the Novus Ordo Lectionary in the Old Mass like plug and play, I have no idea why he thought that.

    Bishop Bruskewitz must have mispoke when he said that the Old Mass was not permitted during the Easter Triduum, he must have meant private (art 2), but he didn't say that.

    I was also a little worried about the confusion / unwillingness to just say yes, yes, no, no to questions such as "can I still play my guitar" and "what about extra-ordinary minions of unholy confusion" and the failure to state simply, there is no communion standing in the hand.

    I mean we aren't going to get very far if the proponents are ashamed of the rubrics are we? Just tell them: it's not about YOU, sit down and be quiet and receive. Can you imagine the shock to the ego?

    EWTNs statement that they might occasionally in special circumstances broadcast an old Mass was absolutely pathetic, I am not surprised as we know what's going on with them anyway...

    You'd think they'd spend as much time on it as they do on certain other things...but no.

    I also found the continual emphasis on training of the priest a bit worrisome: I thought they were overdoing it a bit...

  12. Perhaps, it occurs to me now, the thing about using the lectionary for the New Mass is intended to mean that one can use the approved TRANSLATIONS of the '62 readings as found in the present day Lectionary. That might make some sense. The idea of using readings from a different liturgical context that have no connection to the verses and other propers of the Mass in question is absurd and not justified from the text.

    But it just goes to show that some people's understanding of liturgy is very shallow.

  13. "Perhaps, it occurs to me now, the thing about using the lectionary for the New Mass is intended to mean that one can use the approved TRANSLATIONS of the '62 readings as found in the present day Lectionary."

    But before the Priest begins the homily the readings are read in the vernacular already. And well for English that means more often than not the Douay Rheims. Regardless whether or not the JB and NAB are approved for lectionaries, those two translations are just so much weaker. On the other hand I wouldn't mind having a Douay Rheims lectionary for the Novus Ordo.

  14. Anonymous3:44 AM

    Could someone please explain what is the difference between a private mass, especially one with the faithful present, and a public mass? Thank you.

  15. Anonymous6:04 AM

    I suggest you check out for a very good Q&A about the Motu Proprio. I am reposting it below:

    Motu Proprio Q&A on Possible Points of Confusion

    It's quite important to get out good information early on in the game so that people don't misunderstand the Motu Proprio. Toward that end, I offer the following unofficial Q&A of possible points of confusion, in the hopes that people won't misunderstand the document. If there are any inaccuracies in this, I welcome people to point them out. However, it seems like most of this is just common sense and basic Catholic teaching.

    Q 1. May priests celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missal immediately or do they need to wait for September 14?

    Priests may immediately offer the Mass in private according to the Missal of Pope John XXIII. The Holy Father in his letter to bishops (a clarification from the lawgiver of the motives and ends of the Motu Proprio) said, "As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted." Article 1, Summorum Pontificum) This would mean that a bishop would have no legal way of stopping the priest from privately offering the Mass according to the Rite of Pope John XXIII even now, before the implementation date of September 14. Since the Mass has never been prohibited, the bishop may only prevent a priest from offering it privately if he has reason in accordance with Canon Law for prohibiting him from celebrating Mass at all in the diocese. When a new law is made or a change of law takes effect, there is a need of a period of promulgation to allow time for the law to be known by all who must obey it. However, since in the case of private Masses there is no change in the law (since the traditional Mass has always been allowed), there is no time of promulgation needed. Therefore, even before the date of September 14, any priest is legally entitled to offer the Traditional Latin Mass, at least in private. It would also be a great act of good will and paternal charity for bishops to agree to permit public Masses in the Traditional Rite as requested by the faithful even before the September 14 date of implementation.

    Q. 2 Why does the Holy Father prohibit the Traditional Mass during the Easter Triduum?

    The Holy Father does no such thing. In Article 2 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the Holy Father specifically states that he is speaking of, "Masses celebrated without the people..." This means that he is speaking in this article of the law only of private Masses. About this he says, "each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary."

    So clearly the Holy Father is only saying that private Masses, where there is no "stable group of the faithful" are not permitted during the Easter Triduum. Perhaps this has to do with the busy schedule of priests during that time and the many pastoral demands upon him. It would be impractical for him to offer many private Masses during this time. However, public Masses, which are taken up later in the Motu Proprio, would not be at all affected by this prohibition. Where there is such a stable group of the faithful, Masses would become part of the regular schedule of the parish or church/chapel, and so they would be allowed, and during that most holy time of the year undoubtedly would be encouraged by the Holy See.

    Q. 3 May individual religious communities celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass without permission of their superiors major?

    Yes, religious communities could have irregularly scheduled Traditional Latin Masses even without the permission of their superiors major. In article 3 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the Holy Father states, "Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or "community" celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues."

    So a religious house could offer the Traditional Latin Mass on special occasions even without the permission of their superior major. They would only need this permission if they wished to celebrate this extraordinary form of the Roman Rite very often, probably, for example, if there was a desire for daily or weekly Masses. Clearly superiors are encouraged to offer generous access to the Traditional Latin Mass in the pastoral spirit of the Holy Father.

    Q. 4 May a bishop prohibit people from attending the private Masses of priests offering the Traditional Latin Mass?

    Absolutely not. As the Holy Father states in article 4 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, "Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may - observing all the norms of law - also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted."

    Q. 5 Can a parish or other place request more than just private Masses?

    Yes, if there is a "stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlire liturgical tradition," which would mean that there is a sufficient number in the parish who are committed to the ancient Mass and desire it on a regular basis, then the Holy Father states, "the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962 . . ." There might be some reasons where this could be denied on a short term basis, such as a lack of a priest to say the Mass regularly in the Traditional form. However, the letter makes clear the Holy Father's wish that the faithful who desire the Traditional Latin Mass be granted access to it. So the priest by all means should grant the request of the faithful unless there is some real reason that he absolutely cannot. If there is some temporary reason why this cannot be granted, article 7 of the Motu Proprio provides that, "If a group of lay faithful, as mentioned in art. 5, has not obtained satisfaction to their requests from the pastor, they should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is strongly requested to satisfy their wishes. If he cannot arrange for such celebration to take place, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei.' " So Rome has pledged assistance through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to making sure that assistance is offered to the faithful in this situation. Cases of this sort ought to be extremely rare as it is certainly expected that all parishes prepare for the implementation of this letter during the period of the promulgation before September 14. Free and low cost training for priests who wish to learn the Traditional Latin Mass is available through such groups as the Fraternity of Saint Peter and Una Voce International, as well as being offered by the Society of Saint Pius X (what a good gesture of good will if priests from dioceses began to learn the Traditional Mass from priests of the Society, thereby building useful and charitable relationships with them and hastening their eventual reunion with Holy Mother Church).

    Q. 6 In cases where there is to be a publicly scheduled Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite, is the bishop's permission required?

    No. This is not at all implied in the letter. The letter specifically leaves this up to the pastor or rector of the Church, who is to be guided by the Bishop. As the Holy Father states in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum Article 5, "In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop in accordance with canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church." So the Bishop, as always, must guarantee the unity of the faithful. The pastor is the one who grants the permission, but he does so under the watchful eye of the bishop, who makes sure that all is done in charity and respect for the Faith of the Church. This guidance, however, does not imply that the pastor needs permission of the Bishop. As the Holy Father stated, the Missal of Pope John XXIII was not abrogated, nor could it be abrogated. He has also stated that the excuse that the Traditional Mass is divisive is unfounded; In the Motu Proprio, he stated very clearly, "In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. " So this cannot be a reason for delaying permission for the Traditional Roman Rite in parishes.

    Q. 7 Is permission needed from the bishop for the other sacraments?

    No, although all is done under his guidance, as he is the visible guarantor of the unity of the Church in his diocese. The Holy Father states in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, "For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages." In article 9, the Motu Proprio also states, "The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it. Ordinaries are given the right to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation using the earlier Roman Pontifical, if the good of souls would seem to require it." So the pastor is to grant these just the same as he grants the Traditional Latin Mass, and the same appeal of the faithful to the Bishop and to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei would be available if they are denied these sacraments temporarily for some reason.

    Q. 8 Does the Motu Proprio allow for daily Masses in the Traditional Roman Rite?

    Yes it does. Also in Article 5, the Holy Father states, "Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days . . ."

    Q. 9 May the readings in the Traditional Latin Mass be given in the vernacular?

    The most frequent way of doing the readings at the Traditional Latin Mass is for the priest to read the readings according to the ancient form in Latin at the altar. Then he would read them in the vernacular immediately before his sermon. If, however, they are only read in the vernacular (which is not the standard way of doing so), the old lectionary would have to be used, containing the readings as approved by the Holy See at the time of the 1962 Missal. It would NOT be appropriate to use the readings from the NAB which are approved for use in the Novus Ordo Missae.

    Q. 10 Is there any resource that Bishops can use to help satisfy requests for the "extraordinary form" in his diocese?

    Yes. He has the ability according to section 8 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum to, "refer the problem to the Commission 'Ecclesia Dei' to obtain counsel and assistance." Of course, the best thing bishops could do to implement this is to return to more traditional teaching methods in seminaries, especially in the areas of liturgy and the Latin language.

    Q. 11 May Bishops use the Traditional Rites of Ordination and Consecration, either of bishops or of a Church?

    Although these are not specifically mentioned in the Motu Proprio since they do not pertain immediately to the faithful and their desire for the Traditional Latin Mass, they are nevertheless part of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, part of the precious liturgical treasure of the Church. They may therefore be used at the discretion of the bishop.

    Q. 12 What if particular parishes wish only the celebration of the Traditional Roman Rite?

    This is allowed for under the Motu Proprio. There is no reason why, according to the Motu Proprio, that a parish could not primarily wish the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. As the Holy Father states in Article 10 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, "The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law." Priests could even be devoted entirely to the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Traditional Latin Mass, while recognizing, as the Holy Father states in his letter to the bishops, "in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books." This specifically states that priests may not, "as a matter of principle" exclude celebration according to the new books. That does not mean that there won't be priests who as a matter of practice celebrate only the extraordinary rite, according to the desires of the faithful as guided by the bishops.

    Q. 13 What does the Holy Father hope to accomplish with this Motu Proprio?

    The Holy Father speaks of the pain that took place after the liturgical reform of Pope Paul VI. The Holy Father says in his letter to the bishops, "Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church." In order to heal these wounds, the Holy Father says, ". . . the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching . . . The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage." So the Holy Father clearly wishes the Traditional Roman liturgy to influence the Novus Ordo Mass so that true liturgical development may take place in conformity with ancient tradition. This may eventually lead to a new Missal, a combination of the two, which would eventually become a standard alongside the traditional "Tridentine" rite and which would be an integration and combination of the modern rite (with its admitted defects in style and content) and the traditional one, so rich as it is in spirituality and explicit theological formulations. This is also why the Holy Father wishes to see such aspects included in the Traditional Roman Rite as new saints from the modern calendar, so that the ancient rite becomes once again a living rite, a vibrant part of the Church's everyday life. In this way, eventually we may hope that the Novus Ordo abuses may be corrected by authentic organic development, fulfilling the Second Vatican Council's calls for revision of the liturgical books in conformity with Tradition.

    Q. 14 Can specifically Novus Ordo practices, such as Communion in the hand or altar girls, be done at Traditional Latin Masses?

    No they cannot. Those novelties are permitted only by Papal indult, which could be removed at any time, and they only apply to the Novus Ordo Mass. They have never been permitted at the Traditional Latin Mass, even in places where the Traditional Latin Mass was offered in predominantly Novus Ordo parishes by diocesan indult.

    Q. 15 Does the Holy Father expect an immediate reconciliation with the SSPX as a result of this Motu Proprio?

    The Holy Father almost certainly does not expect this. As he says in his letter to the bishops, "We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level." So the Holy Father is well aware that the Mass is not the only point of contention with the Society of Saint Pius X and that negotiations will be ongoing. Faithful should not try and preempt the Holy Father's work by being overly critical of the SSPX at this crucial time of goodwill. The SSPX has responded very positively to the Motu Proprio and sees it as an important step forward in negotiations with Rome. The best thing that we may do now is to act in charity and allow the Holy Father and the Society time to work out the remaining differences.

  16. Thanks for your moderation as ever.

  17. Anonymous10:15 AM

    I'd be most grateful for any authoritative clarification on the distinction between private and public Masses. Permissions for the former have always been more readily forthcoming from Bishops, and the implications of 'privacy' have created serious headaches for Latin Mass Society members and local representatives over the years.

    First, clearly, the faithful can attend these Masses. How are they going to find out about them? They ask 'sponte' - of their own free will. What does this exclude? It suggests some limitation on publicity, but it's not clear, and you can imagine the casuistry possible here.

    For example, normally a Church noticeboard/newsletter/website would list only public Masses. But is there any reason it couldn't have a list labeled 'Public Masses' and another list labeled 'Regular Private Masses'? After all, private Masses are explicitly allowed to play a part in the spiritual lives of the faithful.

    Second, what of the existing NO Masses at a particular church? Could a priest who says three NO Masses on a Sunday decide to make one a (private) Traditional one? Or would he need permission to discontinue of the regular public Masses?


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