by Michael Davies

------------------------------ Chapter VI

Agreement on the Ministry

In 1973 the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission issued its second Agreed Statement. It was entitled Ministry and Ordination and sub-titled A Statement on the Doctrine of the Ministry Agreed by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, Canterbury 1973. 1

Catholic teaching is not affirmed in this Statement in a single instance where Catholics and Protestants have differed on the nature of the priesthood. On every crucial issue the Catholic position is either passed over in silence or the Protestant position is affirmed. A study of this document makes only one conclusion possible: the Catholic signatories have betrayed the faith they claim to hold. Among the Catholic signatories are two bishops, Bishops C. Butler and A. Clark. This in itself is quite scandalous, but equally scandalous is the fact that not a single English bishop has shown sufficient zeal for the Catholic Faith to denounce the Statement in public. We have no contemporary St. John Fisher. Most regrettable of all was the failure of the Vatican to repudiate the Statement until 1991 (see Appendix VIII).

On 9 October 1977 the B.B.C. broadcast a programme in favour of ecumenism in general and the Agreed Statements in particular. No Catholic critic of the Agreed Statements was permitted to put his viewpoint; the case for and against the Statements was put by Bishops Clark and Butler. Bishop Butler explained that some Catholics had been confused because the old truths which the Statements contained were not phrased in the familiar language of the Catechism. The truth is, as this chapter will prove, that not one of the doctrines which separate the Catholic Church from the Church of England was affirmed in this Statement in any form of language. However, Bishop Butler commented upon the silence of Rome with considerable satisfaction. After pointing out that the Catholic members of the Joint Commission had been appointed by Rome he added that:

The Statements were communicated to Rome before they were published. The first of these Statements has now been before the world for six years and if we have seriously compromised the Catholic faith or shown intentional or unintentional disloyalty to it, all I can say is that it's about time the Church authorities stepped in and either sacked us or showed that they disapproved.

Here is one point at least on which I am in total agreement with Bishop Butler.

Since the Second Vatican Council, Catholic teaching on the priesthood and the Mass has been insidiously and inexorably undermined from within the Church. An endless stream of books and articles casting doubt on or openly denying the traditional teaching has appeared in every Western country, with sanctions rarely if ever taken against the authors. Some of those authors occupied and still occupy official positions in the post-conciliar commissions which have spread like a malignant rash over the body of the Church in the West. Those writings have been reflected in, and to a certain extent endorsed by, the postconciliar liturgical reform; not simply in its illegal abuses (rarely followed by sanctions) and heterodox but official translations of the new texts, but by the officially promulgated Latin texts themselves. Chapter X will show the extent to which the existence of a priesthood, distinct not simply in degree but in essence from that of the faithful, has been obscured; even in the official texts.

Those who have read Cranmer's Godly Order will realize the manner in which, to a large extent, the orthodox bishops and priests found themselves drawn into an almost inevitable process of compromise during the English Reformation. In the initial stages, Cranmer was intelligent enough not to provoke large scale clerical resistance by formulating his demands in a manner which would amount to a formal denial of the Catholic faith. But the longer this process continued the less likelihood there was of those who had been drawn into it ever making a stand. Just as has been the case since Vatican II, four hundred years earlier there was large scale lay resistance, very little clerical resistance, and practically no open resistance on the part of the bishops. Gardiner and Bonner were notable exceptions. I have described in Cranmer's Godly Order how Bishop Bonner reached the point where he realized that he
must either stand up for what he believed to be true or abandon any claim to personal integrity.

Eventually, on 15 September, 1549, Bishop Bonner felt that his failure to make an explicit public protest against the reforms "might unto some be an allowance of heretical doctrines". He had been forced to allow a Protestant to preach in his own Cathedral of St. Paul and when, in the sermon, the preacher declaimed "against the Holy Sacrament, denying the verity and presence of Christ's true Body and Blood to be there" the bishop rose from his place and left the Church.

Four days later he explained to Cranmer "three things I have, to wit, a small portion of goods, a poor carcass and mine soul: the first two ye may take (though unjustly) to you; but as for my soul, ye get it not quia anima mea in manibus meis semper". That same night he was conveyed to the Marshalsea prison. 2

The Agreed Statement on the Ministry appeared in 1973. Five years have passed since then and not a single bishop in England and Wales has had the courage to repudiate it publicly. There is no Bonner in the present-day hierarchy. And what do orthodox bishops have to fear? Not prison, but criticism in the Modernist press, the disapproval of the ecumenical establishment. I know for a fact that there are bishops who deplore the Canterbury Statement but will not criticize it publicly, since such criticism would reflect upon their two confreres who signed the document. They see themselves as members of the episcopal trade union in which loyalty to the other members, even if they are in the wrong, comes before loyalty to the Catholic Faith which, as bishops, they have a duty to defend even at the cost of their lives.
The Agreed Statement on the Ministry is of particular relevance to
the question of Apostolicae Curae and Anglican Orders. Its clear objective was to provide a way around Apostolicae Curae by rendering obsolete the criteria upon which Pope Leo XIII based his final and irrevocable decision that Anglican Orders are invalid.

We decree that these letters and all things contained therein shall not be liable at any time to be impugned or objected to by reason of fault or any other defect whatsoever of subreption or obreption of Our intention, but are and shall be always valid and in force and shall be inviolably observed both juridically and otherwise, by all of whatsoever degree and preeminence, declaring null and void anything which, in these matters, may happen to be contrariwise attempted, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by any person whatsoever, by whatsoever authority or pretext, all things to the contrary notwithstanding (para. 40).

The Agreed Statement explains (para. 17):

We are fully aware of the issues raised by the judgment of the Roman Catholic Church on Anglican Orders. The development of the thinking in our two Communions regarding the nature of the Church and of the Ordained Ministry, as represented in our Statement, has, we consider, put these issues in a new context.

Pope Leo XIII condemned Anglican Orders as invalid, inter alia, because Cranmer's Ordination and Communion rites clearly rejected the concept of the Mass as a sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, and of the priest as a man upon whom the Sacrament of Ordination had conferred powers denied to the rest of the faithful, to transform bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ by an immaculate blessing, and to absolve men of their sins. Furthermore, as a result of this denial, the Anglican ordination rite was devoid of the power to confer orders so that the apostolic succession was broken and the power to ordain lost to the Church of England.

The Agreed Statement makes Apostolicae Curae obsolete by a very simple process. The Mass is not affirmed to be a sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, and therefore those who deny this cannot be condemned. A priest is not affirmed to possess powers denied to the laity, and therefore those who deny that he does cannot be condemned. It is not affirmed that the priesthood is conferred by the laying on of hands in a process which has continued without interruption since the time of the Apostles; and it is not even affirmed that the episcopate is an essential office in the Church. To be in the apostolic succession is simply to teach what the Apostles taught; Anglicans do this, ergo they have valid orders.

 In a commentary upon the Canterbury Statement, Dr. Julian Charley, an Anglican member the Joint Commission, remarked that the problem of Apostolicae Curae has certainly been placed "in a new context" by the Statement, and he asks: "Were the categories employed (by Leo XIII) the right ones at all? Not only Anglicans but many Roman Catholics also would answer 'no' to this question today" (p. 24). The Catholic members of the Joint Commission clearly believe that the time has come when it is no longer necessary to make even a pretence at discretion in proving Dr. Charley to be right. Bishop Clark, who is not only Co-Chairman of the joint Commission but Chairman of the Catholic Truth Society, has put the facilities of that Society at the disposal of Fr. Edward Yarnold, S.J., another member of the joint Commission, to publish a pamphlet advocating a recognition of Anglican Orders on the basis of the Agreed Statement concept of apostolic succession (see Chapter V). Theoretically, this pamphlet is a case of flying a kite. It is claimed that Fr. Yarnold speaks only as an individual-----but it would be hard to imagine a kite being flown in a more official manner. If we were not living in a Church that has temporarily taken leave of its senses, our bishops would have taken instant action to have the pamphlet withdrawn, Fr. Yarnold disciplined, and the Catholic Truth Society removed from Bishop Clark's control. As it is, the Bishops have not taken and will not take any action. Nor is there the least hope of any intervention from the Vatican-----such is the state of the Church today.

It is now necessary to document some of the allegations made in this
 chapter. I do not propose to document them myself but to allow one of the members of the Joint Commission to do so for me. His testimony will carry far more weight than mine. In 1973, Dr. Julian Charley, a leading Anglican theologian on the Joint Commission, published a commentary on the Canterbury Statement. It includes the complete text of the Statement and a detailed commentary explaining the significance of certain ambiguous passages. It must be conceded at once that his interpretation is not the only one possible. As will be shown, he concludes that because it is not affirmed that a priest has powers denied to a layman, then it is accepted that he does not. It could, presumably, be argued that because it is not denied that a priest possesses powers denied to a layman, then he can be presumed to possess such powers. However, plain common sense dictates that agreement can only be reached on what is positively affirmed. This principle lies at the basis of all legal agreements. It is also the basis of Pope Leo XIII's decision that Anglican Orders were invalid. Neither Cranmer's Ordinal nor his Communion Service formally denies Catholic teaching on a single point. Another Anglican theologian, the Rev. Colin Buchanan, has noted that Cranmer could have signed the first Agreed Statement on the Eucharist (The Windsor Agreement) while his opponents could not, and that the statements "about the presence of Christ in the Sacrament go very much with his use of language, and the footnote explaining away transubstantiation without committing anyone to it would have made him chortle". 3 Cranmer could not only have signed the Canterbury Statement with a clear conscience, he could quite easily have written it.

It is therefore quite reasonable to agree with Dr. Charley that where the Statement does not affirm a particular belief to be essential to the understanding of the Ministry reached by the members of the joint Commission, then those members do not consider it to be an essential attribute of the ministerial status. In fact, according to the Statement, there is no priestly status of which to possess attributes.

What, then, does the Statement say, or rather, what does it fail to say, about the crucial issues which have separated Catholics and Protestants since the Reformation? The reader might find it helpful here to refer to the summary of Protestant belief contained in Chapter II.

Protestants teach that ordination is not a Sacrament but simply the public authorization for a person to exercise a function within the Church, namely teaching the Word of God and administering the Sacraments. It is a matter of propriety though not of necessity that only ordained persons should fulfill these functions, but in an emergency they could be discharged by anyone of the faithful.

Can the Canterbury Statement be reconciled with these Reformation axioms? Dr. Charley most certainly concludes that it can. He explains that an ordained minister is

. . . the most appropriate person to preside at the celebration of the Eucharist. The Statement says nothing about a "priestly character" necessary for such a responsibility, by which an ordained man is empowered to do something which no layman can do. It speaks rather of what is right in the light of the nature of both the Eucharist and the ministry. The Lord's people gather together around the Lord's table. If the minister is the focus of the people's unity, who could be more fitting to act as president? It was this realization that undoubtedly accounts for the early confining of this task to the one who exercised oversight in the Christian community. The New Testament itself tells us nothing about who should preside (p. 21).

When asked whether this meant that if no ordained minister was available a layman could act as celebrant he replied, "I can find, if I am honest, no ultimate theological reason why in exceptional circumstances a layman could not be the celebrant."

Paramount among the reasons which prompted Pope Leo XIII to pronounce Anglican Orders invalid was the systematic elimination of every reference to the sacrificial nature of the Mass from Cranmer's Communion and Ordination rites. This is a fact which I have documented in very great detail in Cranmer's Godly Order and will not repeat here. The Reformers were prepared to accept that the Eucharist was a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and nothing more. Is the Statement compatible with Protestant teaching? Dr. Charley writes:

Any suggestion of the sacrifice of Christ being somehow continued in Heaven and represented by priests at altars on earth is positively excluded. Here there is reiterated and elucidated what was said in the Commission's former statement on the Eucharist (The Windsor Agreement). Priestly language to describe the presiding minister must never be allowed to obscure the fact.

Referring to the Windsor Agreement, Dr. Charley explains:

The Statement on the Eucharist claimed to be a "substantial agreement" from which, according to the Chairmen in the Preface, "nothing essential has been omitted". That Statement spoke explicitly of the sacrifice of Christ, but it never described the Eucharist as a sacrifice. Even a "substantial agreement" did not require that. This present Statement on the ministry is "the consensus of the Commission on essential matters" (para. 17). There is a straight acknowledgment of the absence from the New Testament of priestly epithets for the ministry. Why this terminology was accepted later among Christians is explored very carefully. No claim is made for the ministry of a priestly role derived from Christ, for His High Priesthood is unique. There is no suggestion of a continuance or repetition of His priestly sacrifice, for what He did was unique and unrepeatable. All that is said is that the priestly role of Christ is "reflected" in the presiding minister, which is a very different matter. Put the substance of all these facts together, taken from two agreements claiming to include all essentials, and you have a very notable result (p. 23).

The Council of Trent took great pains to make it clear that the forgiveness of sins when absolution is pronounced by a duly authorized priest is a real judicial pardon. It is not simply a statement of fact, namely that God has forgiven the sins of the penitent. Although the priest is dispensing God's bounty, sins are forgiven in virtue of the words of absolution which he pronounces "after the manner of a judicial act by which the sentence is pronounced by him as by a judge" (D. 919). The essential fact here is that the priest also has the power to refuse absolution, to retain the sins of the penitent.

The teaching of Trent was in opposition to the practice of some Reformers who preserved a rite resembling the Catholic Sacrament of Penance in which, when the minister pronounced forgiveness of the penitent's sins, he was simply reminding him that his sins had been forgiven through the merits of Christ; there was no question of a power exercised by the minister in virtue of the Sacrament of Order. To quote Calvin:

It not seldom happens that he who hears general promises which are intended for the whole congregation of the faithful, nevertheless remains somewhat in doubt and is still disquieted in his mind, as if his own remission were not yet obtained. Should this individual lay open the secret wound of his soul to his pastor, and hear these words of the Gospel, "Son be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee," his mind will feel secure and escape from the trepidation with which it was previously agitated. 4

Cranmer, along with Latimer and Jewel, did not believe that the presbyter possessed any special power to absolve sin. 5  The clear teaching of the Catholic Church is that in the Sacrament of Penance a duly authorized priest has the power to remit or retain the sins of the penitent, and not simply state that God has forgiven him. This teaching was reiterated in the documents of Vatican II and by the 1971 Synod of Bishops. 6 The Canterbury statement claims:

Authority to pronounce God's forgiveness of sin, given to bishops and presbyters at their ordination, is exercised by them to bring Christians to a closer communion with God and their fellow men through Christ and to assure them of God's continuing love and mercy.

It will be noted that this is the Protestant concept of ordination as the authority to exercise an office, as opposed to the Catholic teaching that it confers powers not possessed by the unordained. It will also be noted that the Statement does no more than repeat the Protestant teaching that a minister is empowered to pronounce the fact that God has forgiven the sins of the penitent.

Dr. Charley comments:

Similarly, with this context in mind, "the authority to pronounce God's forgiveness of sin" (para. 11) should not be open to misconstruction. The relationship of such a ministry with the word of God is fundamental. The forgiveness is God's, not ours, for sin is primarily an offence against God Who alone therefore can offer pardon. As in the Anglican Prayer Book, where the Absolution is either a prayer to God or a statement about God, so here the minister is simply said to "pronounce" it. This is based upon the authority given by Jesus to his first disciples (Mt. 18:18; Jn. 20:23).

Absolution is an extension of the ministry of the word (p. 21).

Vatican II follows Trent in teaching that the Sacrament of Order in the Catholic Church is of Divine institution. Our Lord made His Apostles priests of the New Testament at the Last Supper. The powers He gave them were permanent and meant to be transmitted to their successors by the laying on of hands. This power was to continue without interruption, and has indeed been handed down without a break to our present-day bishops, who are the lawful successors of the Apostles in the Church which is a hierarchically structured society. 7

Every proposition listed here is de fide teaching, and if the Church should ever accept that she has been wrong in even one of these propositions then her entire history and witness would be meaningless. It would, in fact, be a straightforward admission that there is no Catholic Church. Not one of these propositions is affirmed in the Statement. Some are even openly denied. What it states must be assessed in the light of the theory that to be in the apostolic succession means to teach what the Apostles taught. The Statement has this to say:

The Church is apostolic not only because its faith and life must reflect the witness to Jesus Christ given in the early Church by the Apostles but also because it is charged to continue in the Apostles' commission to communicate to the world what it has received (para. 4).

Within the New Testament ministerial actions are varied and functions not precisely defined. Explicit emphasis is given to the proclamation of the Word and the preservation of apostolic doctrine, the care of the flock, and the example of Christian living.  . . . with the growth of the Church the importance of certain functions led to their being located in specific officers of the community (para. 5).

The early churches may well have had considerable diversity in the structure of the pastoral ministry, though it is clear that some churches were headed by ministers who were called episcopoi and presbyteroi. While the first missionary churches were not a loose aggregation of autonomous communities, we have no evidence that "bishops" and "presbyters" were appointed everywhere in the primitive period. The terms "bishop" and "presbyter" could be applied to the same man or to men with identical or very similar functions. Just as the formation of the canon of the New Testament was a process incomplete until the second half of the second century, so also the full emergence of the threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon required a longer period than the apostolic age. Thereafter this threefold structure became universal in the Church (para. 6).

It hardly needs stating that this is a straightforward contradiction of the teaching of Trent (Denzinger 961-968. See pp. 14/15).

An essential element in the ordained ministry is its responsibility for "oversight" (episcope). This responsibility involves fidelity to the apostolic faith, its embodiment in the life of the Church today, and its transmission to the Church of tomorrow. Presbyters are joined with the bishop in his oversight of the church and in the ministry of the word and the sacraments; they are given authority to preside at the Eucharist and to pronounce absolution (para. 9).

The distinction made here between the necessity for the community to select certain officers to exercise "oversight" (authority) in the Church, which is considered essential, and the fulfilling of this role by bishops (episcopoi), who are not essential, is basic to an understanding of the Canterbury Statement. The agreed formula is "episcope necessary, episcopoi optional". This distinction is made not simply to prepare the ground for Catholic/Anglican unity but for unity with bodies which do not include bishops as part of their system. It would not be possible to carry the Evangelical Anglican clergy in a formula of union which insisted upon the Divine institution and necessity of the episcopate. Many of them simply accept that the exercise of "oversight" by bishops is the way of conducting affairs in the Church of England, without accepting that the episcopate was instituted by Christ or that it is the only acceptable means of exercising "oversight". Similarly, the preface to Cranmer's Ordinal simply recognizes the threefold ministry as an historical fact without affirming that it is essential (see p. 50). Dr. Charley makes the following comments:

Anglican theology has generally drawn a clear distinction between the essential nature of ministry and the policy practised to safeguard it. For instance, the Anglican Reformers of the sixteenth century argued initially for episcopacy and the threefold ministry on historical and practical rather than theological grounds. Even at the height of the Puritan opposition, when Hooker and Bancroft asserted the Divine origin of the episcopacy, they appeared reluctant to regard it as an essential mark of the true Church. Now the Commission's Statement emphasizes "oversight" (episcope) as an essential element in the ordained ministry (para. 9). It does not say the same about "bishops" (episcopoi). Instead there is a description of Anglican and Roman Catholic practice-----what happens and why it happens (e.g. para. 9). No exclusive claim is made for possessing the only acceptable form of Church order. This is implicit in the words of the Co-Chairmen about "respecting the different forms that the ministry has taken in other traditions" (Preface). It leaves wide open the question whether other denominations would be obliged in any future rapprochement to take episcopacy into their system (pp. 16-17).

Ministry evolved in accordance with the needs of the Church in any given locality. There was no imposed blueprint. No proof exists for a direct pipe-line transmission of ministerial authority from apostles to bishops and so down to the present day. Such theorising remains completely unsubstantiated . . . the Church was well able to survive and grow in its early stages without the threefold structure of bishop, presbyter and deacon that became universal after the apostolic age (p. 18).

Dr. Charley's position is quite understandable for a Protestant who accepts that the Scriptures alone provide the sole source of what we must believe and that, ultimately, the criterion for deciding what the Scriptures do or do not teach is his own reason. The existence of the threefold ministry in Apostolic times, let alone its divine institution, cannot be proved from the Bible to his satisfaction, therefore it cannot be essential. There are Scripture scholars of the very highest calibre who would differ from him on this point (see Appendix VII) but, be that as it may, from the Catholic standpoint, Tradition as well as Scripture is the source of our belief and the fact that the Council of Trent teaches categorically that the threefold ministry is of Divine institution, and therefore existed from apostolic times, is proof. The fact that a convincing case can be drawn from Scripture to make the same point can be cited as a useful illustration of Trent's teaching, but should not be put forward to prove this teaching. The teaching of Trent is true of itself; it would be true if not one word in the Bible could be found to confirm it. There is no biblical account of the Assumption of Our Lady, but this is a truth which the Church teaches with infallible certainty and requires us to accept.

As was stated, from Dr. Charley's standpoint his attitude is totally reasonable. But it is not simply unreasonable but scandalous for Catholic bishops who have a solemn obligation to uphold the teaching of Trent to put their signatures to a document which can be interpreted in this manner. Dr. Charley continues:

. . . ordination is "an act in which the whole Church of God is involved" (para. 14). To view the clergy as some kind of exclusive, self-perpetuating club is therefore wholly erroneous . . . the Statement nowhere says that bishops (episcopoi) are essential to the Church but it does affirm that oversight (episcope) most certainly is . . . The Statement says nothing about apostles appointing bishops and thus establishing an unbroken chain down to the twentieth century: the fact is that there are too many links missing for such an assertion (p. 19).

Now the apostolic office was undoubtedly unique and unrepeatable, but the apostolic mission continues, for it will last until the end of the world (Mt. 28:20). To succeed the apostles is to heed their witness and to continue their ministry . . . Thus the true tests of apostolicity are a loyalty to apostolic doctrine, a continuance of the apostolic mission and a following of the apostolic example (p.26).

Dr. Charley notes that although "the pipe-line theory" has been "so widely repudiated, it still gains tacit admission in the Vatican n documents" (p. 27). He quotes with great approval from a book by Dr. W. Telfer who asserts that:

So these Latin churchmen created a historical myth, the unhistorical nature of which they were secure from discovering. This was to the effect that the apostles had provided for the future of the Church by creating an order of monarchical bishops. The first of these they ordained, according to this myth, with their own hands, and sent them to govern the several churches with which they were concerned. 8

As a final point, it is worth citing another quotation brought forward by Dr. Charley to demonstrate why it is essential for the credibility of Protestantism that Christ should not have instituted the Sacrament of Order to be transmitted in unbroken succession by the laying on of hands. He quotes (p. 29) a statement made by Archbishop Bancroft when he re-established episcopacy in Scotland in 1610. The Archbishop stated:

Where bishops could not be had, the ordination given by the presbyters must be esteemed lawful; otherwise it might be doubted if there were any lawful vocation in most of the Reformed Churches. 9

To sum up, the significance of the Canterbury Statement lies in the following fact. If the traditional Catholic teaching on the Sacrament of Order and the apostolic succession is correct, then the Protestant denominations are in conflict with the will of Christ and rarely if ever possess valid Orders. Reunion could only be achieved by their admitting this truth and accepting re-ordination for their ministers. This is a step that they would not take and, therefore, if the ecumenical movement is to progress it can only do so by requiring the Catholic Church to abandon her teaching on the priesthood and consequently her claim to be the one true Church founded by Christ, whose solemn teaching is guaranteed by Him to be infallibly true.

The Catholic delegates had a choice to make between the Catholic priesthood and ecumenical progress. They opted for the latter. May God forgive them.

1. The complete text together with an important commentary by the Rev. J. W. Charley is available from Grove Books, Bramcote, Notts. It is entitled: Agreement on the Doctrine of the Ministry. This is by far the most useful edition to obtain, and Mr. Charley's commentary is cited on a number of occasions in this book.
2. CGO, p. 129.
3. What Did Cranmer Think He Was Doing? Grove Books, see page 7.
4. Calvin, Letters, Vol. 1, pp. 160/1, quoted by J. L. Ainslie, The Doctrines of the Ministerial Order in the Reformed Churches, p.81.
5. OIR, p. 7. See also: R. T. Beckwith, Priesthood and Sacraments, 1964, pp. 30/31.
6. D. 902, 919; Lumen Gentium, 22; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2.
7. D. 938; Lumen Gentium, 20, 21, 22; Christus Dominus, 2, 4,  16;
Presbyterorum Ordinis
, 2.
8. The Office of a Bishop (London, 1962), p. 119.
9. Quoted in N. Sykes, Old Priests and New Presbyters, (Cambridge, 1957), p. 101.


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