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Heresy

From Academic Kids

Heresy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a "theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the ‘catholic’ or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox. By extension, [heresy is an] opinion or doctrine in philosophy, politics, science, art, etc., at variance with those generally accepted as authoritative."

Contents

Etymology

The word "heresy" comes from the Greek αιρεσις, hairesis (from αιρεομαι, haireomai, "choose"), which means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of dissident believers. It was given wide currency by Irenaeus in his tract Contra Haereses (Against Heresies) to describe and discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. He described his own position as orthodox (from ortho- "straight" + doxa "thinking") and his position eventually evolved into the position of the early Christian Church.

Thus it will be perceived that "heresy" has no purely objective meaning: the category exists only from the point-of-view of a position within a sect that has been previously defined as "orthodox". Thus, too, any nonconformist view within any field may be perceived as "heretical" by others within that field who are convinced that their view is "orthodox".

Heretics usually do not define their own beliefs as heretical. Heresy is a value-judgment and the expression of a view from within an established belief system. For instance, Roman Catholics held Protestantism as a heresy while some non-Catholics considered Catholicism the "Great Apostasy."

For a heresy to exist there must be an authoritative system of dogma designated as orthodox, such as those proposed by Catholicism. The term orthodox is used in Eastern Orthodoxy, some Protestant churches, in Islam, some Jewish denominations, and to a lesser extent in other religions. Variance from orthodox Marxism-Leninism is described as "right" or "left deviationism." The Church of Scientology uses the term "squirreling" to refer to unauthorized alterations of its teachings or methods.

Religious heresy

Christianity

The use of the term heresy in the context of Christianity is less common today, except for some notable exceptions: see for example the entry Rudolf Bultmann and the character of debates over ordaining women and gay priests. Popular imagination relegates "heresy" to the Middle Ages, when the Church's power in Europe was at its height, but the case of the scholar and humanist Giordano Bruno was not the last execution for heresy. Heresy remained an officially punishable offense in Roman Catholic nations until the late 18th century. In Spain, heretics were prosecuted and punished even after the Napoleonic Era.

Roman background

A concern for uniform practice of ritual, which Romans conceived as civic and public duty, distinguished the Roman civic and public approach to religion from the Greeks', where each locality preserved its archaic characteristics. Plutarch, in his Life of Numa Pompilius ascribes to the legendary King of Rome the institution of pontifex maximus which, from Plutarch's 2nd century AD point of view "was to declare and interpret the divine law, or, rather, to preside over sacred rites; he not only prescribed rules for public ceremony, but regulated the sacrifices of private persons, not suffering them to vary from established custom, and giving information to every one of what was requisite for purposes of worship or supplication." The Romans welcomed new Gods in to the pantheon, it did not matter if one believed in some or none of the Gods, so long as one took part in Roman rituals. For example Christians were persecuted not for believing in one God, not for disbelieving in the Roman pantheon of Gods, all perfectly acceptable, but because they refused to participate in civic and public rituals and duty. Deviation from the official norm amounted to impiety: heresy was foreign to the pagan worldview.

Early Christian heresies

Urgent concerns with the uniformity of belief and practice have characterized Christianity from the outset. The process of establishing orthodox Christianity was in full swing by middle to late first century when Paul wrote the epistles that comprise a large part of the New Testament. On many occasions in Paul's epistles, he defends his own apostleship, and urges Christians in various places to beware of false teachers, or of anything contrary to what was handed to them by him. The epistles of John and Jude also warn of false teachers, as does the writer of the Book of Revelation.

In the middle of the 2nd century, three unorthodox groups of Christians adhered to a range of doctrines that divided the Christian communities of Rome: the teacher Marcion, the pentecostal outpourings of ecstatic Christian prophets of a continuing revelation, in a movement called "Montanism" because it had been initiated by Montanus and his female disciples, and the gnostic teachings of Valentinus. Early attacks upon alleged heresies formed the matter of Tertullian's Prescription Against Heretics (in 44 chapters, written from Rome), and of Irenaeus' Against Heresies (ca 180, in five volumes), written in Lyon after his return from a visit to Rome. The letters of Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna to various churches warned against false teachers, and the Epistle of Barnabas accepted by many Christians as part of Scripture in the 2nd century, warned about mixing Judaism with Christianity, as did other writers, leading to decisions reached in the first ecumenical council, which was convoked by the Emperor Constantine at Nicaea in 325, in response to further disruptive polemical controversy within the Christian community, in that case Arianist disputes over the nature of the Trinity.

During those first three centuries, Christianity was effectively outlawed by requirements to worship the Roman emperor and Roman gods. Consequently, when the Church labeled its enemies as heretics and cast them out of its congregations or severed ties with dissident churches, it remained without the power to persecute them. However, those called "heretics" were also called a number of other things (e.g. "fools," "wild dogs," "servants of Satan"), so the word "heretic" had negative associations from the beginning, and intentionally so.

Before 325 AD, the "heretical" nature of some beliefs was a matter of much debate within the churches. After 325 AD, some opinion was formulated as dogma through the canons promulgated by the councils. Each phrase in the Nicene Creed, which was hammered out at the Council of Nicaea, addresses some aspect that had been under passionate discussion and closes the books on the argument, with the weight of the agreement of over 300 carefully selected bishops from around the empire. However, that did not prevent the Arians who were defeated at the council of 325 from dominating most of the church for the greater part of the fourth century, often with the aid of Roman emperors who favored them. In the East, the successful party of Cyril cast out Nestorius and his followers as heretics and collected and burned his writings.

Irenaeus was the first to argue that the "proto-orthodox" position was the same faith that Jesus gave to the apostles, and that the identity of the apostles, their successors, and the teachings of the same were all well known public knowledge. This was therefore an earlier argument on the basis of apostolic succession. Irenaeus' opponents claimed to have received secret teachings from Jesus via other apostles which were not publicly known. (Gnosticism is predicated on the existence of hidden knowledge, but brief references to private teachings of Jesus have also survived in the canonic Scripture.) Irenaeus' opponents also claimed that the wellsprings of divine inspiration were not dried up, the doctrines of continuing revelation.

The Hispanic ascetic Priscillian of Avila was the first person to be executed for heresy, only sixty years after the First Council of Nicaea, in 385. He was executed at the orders of Emperor Magnus Maximus, over the procedural objections of bishops Ambrose of Milan and Martin of Tours.

A number of the beliefs the Catholic Church has come to regard as heretical have to do with Christology, the nature of Jesus Christ and the relationship between Christ and God the Father. The orthodox teaching is that Christ was fully divine and at the same time fully human, and that the three persons of the Trinity are equal and eternal. Note that this position was not formally established as the orthodox position until it was challenged in the fourth century by Arius (Nicene creed in 325); nor was the New Testament put into its present form until the end of the 4th century (Athanasius first lists the 27 books we have in the current New Testament in 367(?), but disputes continued; see Biblical Canon).

Over the years, numerous Christian scholars and preachers have disagreed with the Church on various issues or doctrines. When the Church has become aware of these beliefs, they have been condemned as heretical. Historically, this often happened when the belief challenged, or was seen to challenge, Church authority, or drew a movement of followers who challenged the established order socially. For entirely secular reasons, some influential people have had an interest in maintaining the status quo or condemning a group they wished to be removed. The Church's internal explanations for its actions were based purely on objection to beliefs and philosophies that ran contrary to its interpretation of the holy scriptures and its official interpretation of holy tradition.

See also Manichaeism, a pre-Christian religion that influenced early Christians, notably Augustine, often in ways held to be heretical.

Heresy in Roman Catholicism

Heresy is defined by Thomas Aquinas as "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas." Heresy is both the nonorthodox belief itself, and the act of holding to that belief.

While the term is often used by laymen to indicate any nonorthodox belief such as Paganism, by definition heresy can only be committed by someone who considers themselves a Christian, but rejects the teachings of what has become the orthodox Christian church. A person who completely renounces Christianity is not considered a heretic, but an apostate, and a person who renounces the authority of the Church but not its teachings is a schismatic.

The Church makes several distinctions as to the seriousness of an individual heterodoxy and its closeness to true heresy. Only a belief that directly contravenes an article of faith, or that has been explicitly rejected by the Church, is labelled as actual "heresy."

Canon 751 of the Roman Catholic Church's Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983 (abbreviated "C.I.C." for Codex Iuris Canonici), the little-known juridical systematization of ancient law currently binding the world's one billion Latin Rite Catholics, defines heresy as the following: "Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith." The essential elements of canonical heresy therefore technically comprise 1) obstinacy, or continuation in time; 2) denial (a proposition contrary or contradictory in formal logic to a dogma) or doubt (a posited opinion, not being a firm denial, of the contrary or contradictory proposition to a dogma); 3) after reception of valid baptism; 4) of a truth categorized as being of "Divine and Catholic Faith," meaning contained directly within either Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition per Can. 750 par. 1 C.I.C. ("de fide divina") AND proposed as 'de fide divina' by either a Pope having spoken solemnly "ex cathedra" on his own (example: dogmatic definition of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1950), or defined solemnly by an Ecumenical Council in unison with a Pope (ex: the definition of the Divinity of Christ in the Council of Chalcedon) ("de fide catholica").

The penalty for a baptized Catholic above the age of 18 who obstinately, publicly, and voluntarily manifests his or her adherence to an objective heresy is automatic excommunication ("latae sententiae) according to Can. 1364 par.1 C.I.C..

A belief that the church has not directly rejected, or that is at variance with less important church teachings, is given the label, sententia haeresi proxima, meaning "opinion approaching heresy." A theological argument, belief, or theory that does not constitute heresy in itself, but which leads to conclusions which might be held to do so, is termed propositio theologice erronea, or "erroneous theological proposition." Finally, if the theological position only suggests but does not necessarily lead to a doctrinal conflict, it might be given the even milder label of sententia de haeresi suspecta, haeresim sapiens, meaning "opinion suspected, or savoring, of heresy."

Some significant controversies of doctrine have risen over the course of history. At times there have been many heresies over single points of doctrine, particularly in regards to the nature of the Trinity, the doctrine of transubstantiation and the immaculate conception.

Catholic response to heresy

The Church has always fought in favor of orthodoxy and the Pope's authority as the successor of St. Peter to determine truth. At various times in history, it has had varying degrees of power to resist or punish heretics, once it had defined them.

In the early church, heresies were sometimes determined by a selected council of bishops, or ecumenical council, such as the First Council of Nicaea. The orthodox position was established at the council, and all who failed to adhere to it would thereafter be considered heretics. The church had little power to actually punish heretics in the early years, other than by excommunication, a spiritual punishment, or, as in the case of Arius, assassination. To those who accepted it, an excommunication was the worst form of punishment possible, as it separated the individual from the body of Christ, his Church, and prevented salvation. Excommunication, or even the threat of excommunication, was enough to convince many a heretic to renounce his views. Priscillian achieved the distinction of becoming the first Christian burned alive for heresy in 385 at Treves.

In later years, the Church instituted the Inquisition, an official body charged with the suppression of heresy. The Inquisition was active in several nations of Europe, particularly where it had fervent support from the civil authority. The Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) was part of the Roman Catholic Church's efforts to crush the Cathars. It is linked to the movement now known as the Medieval Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition was particularly brutal in its methods, which included the burning at the stake of many heretics. However, it was initiated and substantially controlled by King Ferdinand of Spain rather than the Church; King Ferdinand used political leverage to obtain the Church's tacit approval. Another example of a medieval heretic (according to some, proto-protestant) movement is the Hussite movement in the Czech lands in the early 1400s.

It is widely reported that the last person to be burned alive at the stake on orders from Rome was Giordano Bruno, executed in 1600 for a collection of heretical beliefs including Copernicanism and (probably more important) an unlimited universe with innumerable inhabited worlds. The last case of an execution at an auto de fe by the Spanish Inquisition was the schoolmaster Cayetano Ripoll, accused of deism and executed by garroting July 26, 1826 in Valencia after a two-year trial.

The development of the printing press removed the ability of the church to quietly suppress dissidents, such that Martin Luther was able to successfully fight the Papacy and forge the Protestant Reformation.

Modern Roman Catholic response to Protestantism

The Catholic Church, in the spirit of ecumenism, tends not to refer to Protestantism as a heresy nowadays, even if the teachings of Protestantism are indeed heretical from a Catholic perspective. Modern usage favors referring to Protestants as "separated brethren" rather than "heretics", although the latter is still on occasion used vis-a-vis Catholics who abandon their Church to join a Protestant denomination.

Some of the doctrines of Protestantism that the Catholic Church considers heretical are the belief that the Bible is the only source and rule of faith ("sola scriptura"), that faith alone can lead to salvation ("sola fide") and that there is no sacramental, ministerial priesthood attained by ordination, but only a universal priesthood of all believers.

Protestantism and heresy

The main meaning of 'heresy' to a Protestant is the concept of telling lies about God. It is not at its core a matter of opposing the authorities (though, like all authorities religious or otherwise, Protestant leaders often invoke the concepts of heresy and apostasy to defend themselves from attack). Protestants chose the difficult course of action, to try to steer a middle course between (1) respecting God enough to care that humans tell the truth about God, and (2) being tolerant and loving of those who honestly see things differently, giving them an open ear because there might be something to learn from them. Protestant sects which seek to reestablish what they see as ancestral Christian principles -- i.e. Fundamentalists -- sometimes refer to Catholicism (or indeed other Protestant groups) as heretical. One aspect of Catholicism many Protestants regard as heresy against original Christianity is the veneration of the saints, and in particular the cultus of the Virgin Mary. Another is the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Heresy in Judaism

Orthodox Judaism considers views departing from the traditional Jewish principles of faith to be heretical. Haredi Judaism holds that all Jews who reject their specific understanding of Maimonides's 13 principles of Jewish faith are heretics. Haredi Jews and most Modern Orthodox Jews consider Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism to be heretical movements, and regard most of Conservative Judaism as heretical. The liberal wing of Modern Orthodoxy is more tolerant of Conservative Judaism, particularly its right wing, as there is some theological and practical overlap between these groups.

The Greek term άίρεσις originally denoted "division," "sect," "religious" or "philosophical party," and is applied by Josephus to the three Jewish sects — Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes. The specific rabbinical term for heresies, or religious divisions due to an unlawful spirit, is "minim" (lit. "kinds {of belief}"; the singular "min," for "heretic" or "Gnostic," is coined idiomatically, like "goy" and "'am ha-aretz";).

The law "You shall not cut yourselves" () is interpreted by the Rabbis: "You shall not form divisions, but shall form one bond." (Source: Midrash Sifre on Deuteronomy 96)

Besides the term "min" for "heretic," the Talmud uses the words "Hitsonim" (outsiders), "apikoros," and "kofer ba-Torah" (R. H. 17a), or "kofer ba-'ikar" (he who denies the fundamentals of faith; Pes. xxiv. 168b); also "poresh mi-darke tsibbur" (he who deviates from the customs of the community; Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 5; R. H. 17a). Of all these it is said that they are consigned to Gehinnom for all eternity (Tosef., Sanh. l.c.; comp. ib. xii. 9, apparently belonging to xiii. 5: "He who casts off the yoke [of the Law], and he who severs the Abrahamic covenant; he who interprets the Torah against the halakic tradition, and he who pronounces in full the Ineffable Name—all these have no share in the world to come").

The Mishnah says the following have no share in the world to come: "He who denies that the Torah is divinely revealed, and the apiḳoros." R. Akiba says, "also he who reads heretical books". This is explained in the Talmud (Sanh. 100b) to mean "sifre Ẓeduḳim" (Sadducean writings); but this is an alteration by the censor of "sifre ha-Minim" (books of the Gnostics or Heretics). The Biblical version, "That ye seek not after your own heart" (Num. xv. 39), is explained (Sifre, Num. 115; Ber. 12b) as "Ye shall not turn to heretic views ["minut"] which lead your heart away from God" (see Maimonides, "Yad," 'Akkum, ii. 3).

In summarizing the Talmudic statements concerning heretics in Sanh. 90-103, Maimonides ("Yad," Teshubah, iii. 6-8) says:

"The following have no share in the world to come, but are cut off, and perish, and receive their punishment for all time for their great sin: the minim, the apiḳoresim, they that deny the belief in the Torah, they that deny the belief in resurrection of the dead and in the coming of the Redeemer, the apostates, they that lead many to sin, they that turn away from the ways of the [Jewish] community. Five are called 'minim': (1) he who says there is no God and the world has no leader; (2) he who says the world has more than one leader; (3) he who ascribes to the Lord of the Universe a body and a figure; (4) he who says that God was not alone and Creator of all things at the world's beginning; (5) he who worships some star or constellation as an intermediating power between himself and the Lord of the World.

"The following three classes are called 'apiḳoresim': (1) he who says there was no prophecy nor was there any wisdom that came from God and which was attained by the heart of man; (2) he who denies the prophetic power of Moses our master; (3) he who says that God has no knowledge concerning the doings of men.

"The following three are called 'koferim ba-Torah': (1) he who says the Torah is not from God: he is a kofer even if he says a single verse or letter thereof was said by Moses of his own accord; (2) he who denies the traditional interpretation of the Torah and opposes those authorities who declare it to be tradition, as did Zadok and Boethus; and (3) he who says, as do the Nazarenes and the Mohammedans, that the Lord has given a new dispensation instead of the old, and that he has abolished the Law, though it was originally divine."

It is noteworthy, however, that Abraham ben David, in his critical notes, objects to Maimonides characterizing as heretics all those who attribute corporeality to God; and he insinuates that the cabalists are not heretics. In the same sense all Biblical critics who, like Ibn Ezra in his notes on Deut. i. 2, doubt or deny the Mosaic origin of every portion of the Pentateuch, would protest against the Maimonidean (or Talmudic; see Sanh. 99a) conception of heresy. See Apiḳoros; Articles of Faith; Judaism; Gnosticism. K.

Legal status

The status of heretics in Jewish law is not clearly defined. While there are certain regulations scattered throughout the Talmud concerning the minim, the nearest approach to the English term "heretic," these are mostly of a haggadic nature, the codes taking little cognizance of them. The governing bodies of the Synagogue frequently exercised, from motives of self-defense, their power of excommunication against heretics. The heretic was excluded from a portion in the world to come (Maimonides, "Yad," Teshubah, iii. 6-14); he was consigned to Gehenna, to eternal punishment (R. H. 17a; comp. Ex. R. xix. 5; see Apiḳoros, and compare D. Hoffmann, "Der Schulchan Aruch und die Rabbinen über das Verhältnis der Juden zu Andersgläubigen," 2d ed., Berlin, 1894); but the Jewish courts of justice never attended to cases of heresy; they were left to the judgment of the community.

There are, however, in the rabbinic codes, laws and regulations concerning the relation of the Jew to the heretic. The sentiment against the heretic was much stronger than that against the pagan. While the pagan brought his offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem and the priests accepted them, the sacrifices of the heretic were not accepted (Ḥul. 13b, et al.). The relatives of the heretic did not observe the laws of mourning after his death, but donned festive garments, and ate and drank and rejoiced (Sem. ii. 10; "Yad," Ebel, i. 5, 6; Yoreh De'ah, 345, 5). Scrolls of the Law, tefillin, and mezuzot written by a heretic were burned (Giṭ. 45b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 39, 1; Yoreh De'ah, 281, 1); and an animal slaughtered by a heretic was forbidden food (Ḥul. 13a; Yoreh De'ah, 2, 5). Books written by heretics did not render the hands impure ("Yad," She'ar Abot ha-Ṭum'ot, ix. 10; comp. Yad. iv. 6; see Purity); they might not be saved from fire on the Sabbath (Shab. 116a; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 334, 21). A heretic's testimony was not admitted in evidence in Jewish courts (Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 34, 22; see "Be'er ha-Golah" ad loc.); and if an Israelite found an object belonging to a heretic, he was forbidden to return it to him (Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ 266, 2).

Classes of heretics

The "mumar le-hak'is" (one who transgresses the Law, not for personal advantage, but out of defiance and spite) was placed by some of the Rabbis in the same category as the minim ('Ab. Zarah 26a; Hor. 11a). Even if he habitually transgressed one law only (for example, if he defiantly violated one of the dietary laws), he was not allowed to perform any religious function (Yoreh De'ah, 2, 5; SHaK and "Pitḥe Teshubah," ad loc.), nor could he testify in a Jewish court (Sanh. 27a; "Yad," 'Edut, x. 3; Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 34, 2). One who violated the Sabbath publicly or worshiped idols could not participate in the "'erub ḥaẓerot" ('Er. 69a; "Yad," 'Erubin, ii. 16; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 385, 3; see 'Erub), nor could he write a bill of divorce (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 123, 2). One who would not permit himself to be circumcised could not perform the ceremony on another (Yoreh De'ah, 264, 1, Isserles' gloss). While the court could not compel the mumar to divorce his wife, even though she demanded it, it compelled him to support her and her children and to pay her an allowance until he agreed to a divorce (Eben ha-'Ezer, 154, 1, and "Pitḥe Teshubah," ad loc.). At his death those who are present need not tear their garments (Yoreh De'ah, 340, 5, and "Pitḥe Teshubah," ad loc.). The mumar who repented and desired readmittance into the community was obliged to take a ritual bath, the same as the proselyte (Yoreh De'ah, 268, 12, Isserles' gloss, and "Pitḥe Teshubah," ad loc.; comp. "Sefer Ḥasidim," ed. Wistinetzki, §§ 200-209). If he claimed to be a good Jew, although he was alleged to have worshiped idols in another town, he was believed when no benefit could have accrued to him from such a course.

Heresy in Islam

The two main bodies of Islam are the Sunnis and the Shi'as. These main denominations view each other as heretical. Groups like the Sufis, the Harufi and the Bektashi are sometimes regarded as heretical. Although Sufism is often accepted as valid by Sunnis, fundamentalist Sunni movements like Wahhabism view it as heretical.

Both the Ahmadiyya and the Nation of Islam et al are regarded by some Muslims as non-Muslim. Muslims who convert to those faiths tend to be viewed as apostates, rather than heretics.

Those deemed heretics tend to be tolerated by Islamic courts, scholars and power structures, in contrast to those who are deemed to be apostates, such as the Ahmadis who were excommunicated by the Pakistani state in 1974, yet in Iran the same are considered as Muslim.

Contemporary heresy

Today, heresy can be without a religious context as the holding of ideas that are in fundamental disagreement with the status quo in any practice and branch of knowledge. Religion is not a necessary component of the term's definition. [1] (http://www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn2.0?stage=1&word=heresy) For example, Charles Darwin of natural selection fame was considered a heretic of his day. Other people considered heretics were Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, and many others. The revisionist paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, who published his findings as The Dinosaur Heresies, jokingly treated the mainstream view of dinosaurs as the dogma of a religion.

The term heresy is also used as an ideological pigeonhole for contemporary writers because by definition heresy depends on contrasts with an established orthodoxy. For example, the tongue-in-cheek contemporary usage of heresy, such as to categorize a "Wall Street heresy" or a "Republican heresy", are metaphors which invariably retain a subtext that links orthodoxies in geology or biology or any other field to the dogmas of religion (although religion may not necessarily appear as an explicit component). Heresy, in these expanded metaphoric senses, is intended to allude to both the difference between the person's views and the mainstream, and the boldness of such a person in propounding these views, despite their unpopularity or even forceful opposition.

See also

External links

cs:Hereze da:Kætteri de:Häresie es:Herejía eo:Herezo fr:Hérésie it:Eresia nl:Ketterij ja:異端 no:Heresi pl:Herezja pt:Heresia ru:Ересь fi:Kerettiläisyys sv:Kätteri sk:Heréza

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