QUAERITUR: blessed salt

saltFrom a reader:

Recently a Protestant friend of mine sent me an article you might find interesting about someone hawking “Christian salt.” I don’t know much about the Catholic tradition of blessed salt, except that my mom keeps some near her statue of St. Philomena. The salt in this article is blessed by an Episcopal priest. Apparently the “inventor” dreamed it up as an alternative to the Kosher salt those TV chefs are always talking about.  “An unspecified percentage of the revenue will go toward supporting Christian charities, and if the line proves profitable, Godlewski will attempt to expand the product line with Christian branded rye, pickles and bagels, reports Examiner.com.”
Hmmmm. At best this seems like a tacky attempt at creating a sacramental. At worst, it borders on simony and anti-semitism. What do you think? Is blessed salt a legitimate devotion? Do kosher delis undermine Christian culture?

My comments:

I don’t think this has any anti-Semitic dimension.  Kosher salt is used in cooking.  It has a larger grind, or grain.  It is “kosher” or “koshering” salt, not because it’s kosher in itself but because it is used in the processing of kosher meats.  It usually doesn’t have additives, which is why it is handy in cooking.  It is amazing, by the way, how many different sorts of culinary salt you can get, and how different they taste.

The episcopal priest do what he wants, but the salt is not blessed.  Only someone with valid priestly orders can bless this with constitutive blessings.

But he can commit a sin of scandal by giving the impression of peddling sacred things.

But if he could bless the salt and make it a sacramental, it would be a sacrilege to sell it.

In ancient times (as today) salt was extremely important.  People depended on it for health.  Without the right balance of salt our bodies cannot regulate body moisture properly.  It was precious at times.  The Romans named an important road after salt, the Via Salaria, for salt trade – tied to Rome’s very earliest origins.  Roman soldiers would sometimes be paid in salt, thus “salary” in English.  Think about the upheavals in India when a tax was imposed on salt, and Ghandi led a protest illegally to make salt at the ocean.

Salt is all over Scriptures, from the lot of Lot’s wife to Our Lord calling His disciples the “salt of the earth”.

In the Old Testament God established a covenant of salt with the people.  Cf. Numbers 18:19: “All the firstfruits of the sanctuary which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to thee and to thy sons and daughters, by a perpetual ordinance. It is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord, to thee and to thy sons.”  Remember, salt was precious.  When you shared salt with someone, you created a bond between you.

We say that someone is “worth his salt”.  That also means that he is esteemed.  You would invite someone your favor to sit closer to the salt cellar cellar on the table.  You would invite him even to “come a little higher”, as Christ speaks of in the parable in Luke 14:10.

Salt is a sign of a bond, but also of permanence, because salt preserves food and keeps water from getting nasty with algae.  In Leviticus 2:13 God tells the Jews that all their offerings must also have salt.  Salt is, in a sense, something that is irrevocable.

The Lord’s words then about His disciples as being salt, and His warning about salt “losing its flavor”, take on greater meaning.  There is a permanence expected in discipleship.

St. Paul talks about how, when we answer people, our words should be “salty”: “sermo vester semper in gratia sale sit conditus ut sciatis quomodo oporteat vos unicuique respondere… Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man.”  This means that our words should be engaging, but with more than mere dazzle.  If food is not seasoned with salt, it is boring and we are not getting a necessary nutrient.

Let’s leave the whole low-sodium stuff aside.  Although, that is an interesting metaphor for what happened in liturgy, doctrine and practice in the Church…

In the Church we bless salt and use it for various things.  It is a sacramental.  You can cook with it, of course.  You can also sprinkle it in places as a protection from the attacks of the Enemy.  The Enemy does not like blessed salt!

As in all sacramentals blessing salt is serious business.  Salt is especially serious, however.

You might know that exorcised and blessed salt was used in the rite for blessing water.  The exorcism and blessing for salt is a fearsome thing.

Salt is of those few things actually personally addressed as a creature of God and then exorcised.

Exorcizo te, creatura salis, per Deum + vivum, per Deum + verum, per Deum + sanctum, per Deum, qui te per Eliseum Prophetam in aquam mitti jussit, ut sanaretur sterilitas aquae; ut efficiaris sal exorcizatum in salutem credentium; et sis omnibus sumentibus te sanitas animae et corporis; et effugiat, atque discedat a loco, in quo aspersum fueris, omnis phantasia et nequitia vel versutia diabolicae fraudis, omnisque spiritus immundus, adjuratus per eum qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos, et saeculum per ignem.  R. Amen.

O you creature of salt, I purge you of all evil by the living + God, by the true + God, by the holy + God, who commanded by the Prophet Elisha that you be put into water in order that the sterility of the water would be healed: so that you might be rendered a purified salt for the salvation of believers, and so that you might be a healthiness of soul and body to all who consume you, and so that you may put to flight and drive out from a place in which you will have been scattered every phantom and wickedness, and cunning trap of diabolical deceit, and every unclean spirit be solemnly banished by command through Him Who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.  R. Amen.

Holy Church does not kid around in these exorcisms and blessings …. in the older, traditional Rituale Romanum at least.  I will not speak of the newer “Book of Blessings” which is nearly useless and should be entirely scrapped.

Finally… I think it is a profoundly dangerous thing to give the appearance of peddling sacred things.  I would be afraid for that person’s spiritual well-being and ultimate fate.

I think the Enemy would be pleased by this mockery of blessing salt and selling it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Chris says:

    “But if he could, and if he could bless the salt and make it a sacramental, it would be a sacrilege to sell it.”

    Father, much like a relic, would it lose its sacramental status once sold?

  2. Scott RP says:

    Father – this is a perfect example of the kind of Fr. Z post I would love to link to my Facebook. My friends could learn so much from this incredibly informative post. PLEASE, Father, add a Facebook post-linking feature!

  3. Why is the Book of Blessings so horrible? It is one of the few books that Mother Church puts out that you cast opprobrium upon it. [That’s a topic for another discussion.]

  4. Theodorus says:

    The Book of Blessing is horrible because it blesses almost nothing!

  5. Thomas says:

    I didn’t know much about blessed salt until I started getting into the EF and the older gorms of the sacraments. I have never heard of blessed salt talked about at church before then.

  6. My wife and I are not long married and in a new apartment. I put up a font inside the door and put in some Holy Water; I also added a pinch of Blessed Salt that my wife was given. Is it OK to do this? I thought putting the two sacramentals together was probably a good thing.

  7. Cliff W says:

    Father, have you heard some of the stories that Fr. Corapi has told about the experiences some people have had after using blessed salt? The enemy really does hate it.

  8. Scott: a Facebook post-linking feature

    When I post, my Facebook page is updated automatically.

  9. Ed Francis says:


    Are there, as someone here said just recently, two kinds of Holy Water, one blessed with salt, one not?

    Important question these days, at least in my area.

  10. Mitchell NY says:

    I did not know the power of salt and its’ significance and meanings before…Interesting indeed…Just curious though Father, The Book of Blessings, that you mention should be scrapped entirely, is that a possibility? I mean has that ever happened before, where a approved book of the Church is used for decades or longer and then suppressed or abrogated in favor of a former?? Should be an interesting post…Thanks.

  11. Luigi says:

    Very interesting commentary.

    One thing that caught my eye in the reader’s letter: “At worst, it borders on simony and anti-semitism.”

    Anti-semitism?!? Wow. I don’t mean to criticize the writer directly; his / her comment reflects the day in which we live, but still, it is amazing to me how some of us feel the need to tiptoe around Jewish sensibilities.

  12. paul says:

    Thankyou for this very interesting article and your very wise and helpful comments- I think the point about the wrongness of selling such a sacramental is important- terrible punishment could come down upon a person who knowingly does such a thing. It would be interesting to hear about the power of blessed salt in peoples’ lives.

  13. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Luigi, in the US people think of rye bread in some sandwiches, certain types of pickles, and bagels as being particularly associated with Jews as an ethnic group.

    I also think it’s odd–in a not-nice way–that the fellow thinks that after waving his hands over the kosher salt (is this for kashering the meat so there won’t be any blood in it?) and calling it “Christian salt” he should move on to rye (bread?), pickles, and bagels. Either the original fellow is trying to make a funny and got quoted out of context or something is seriously strange about it.

    Maybe this originates in somebody making fun of people, like the jokes about the “endangered Orlons” and how their “pelts” are being used for sweaters?

  14. Daniel Latinus says:


    The orignal article stated that the “blessed” salt this fellow is hawking as an alterntive to kosher salt. The way this was phrased does sound potentially anti-semitic.

    There are some people who object to a kosher label on anything, ranging from people who argue that a kosher label represents a tax by the Jews that adds to the price of products, to the sedevacantist “bishop” who says that kosher food causes diabolical possession. Both groups are motivated by a real anti-semitism.

  15. Fr. Z., Thank you for pointing out that the exorcism and blessing of salt is a fearsome thing. I always feel very humbled when exorcising and blessing salt and water according to the EF.

    Eamonn: It is not a problem to add blessed salt to holy water. It may already have been done when the water was blessed.

    Ed Francis et alii:

    In the EF the blessing of water is outlined thus: 1. exorcism of salt; 2. blessing of salt; (1 & 2 may be ommitted if blessed salt is already had); 3. exorcism of water; 4. blessing of water; 5. mixing and blessing of exorcised salt and water.

    In the OF as found in the Sacramentary and Book of Blessings the exorcisms are ommitted and the addition of blessed salt is optional.

  16. Eric says:

    Could a priest go down to the county DOT road salt deposit and bless the whole lot of it, and then it would be spread all over the county at the next snow storm?

  17. AJP says:

    There is something very odd about \”Christian\” rye, pickels, and bagels.
    I don\’t know what the intention behind it all is, but it does sound strange
    and I can see how it would bug some Jewish people, given that those foods
    are associated with Jewish cuisine. It’s as if these foods are “non-Christian\”
    to begin with, and for some reason that means Christians shouldn’t eat them,
    but providing a “Christian” alternative makes it OK. Kind of like how some
    rock/metal music is offensive to Christians, so some enterprising evangelicals
    created “Christian-branded” rock/metal (aka Contemporary Christian Music), so
    Christians would have a safe alternative to undesirable, sinful music. The problem is
    a food is never immoral or un-Christian in itself and there’s nothing sinful
    about eating foods that are associated with non-Christian religions or foods
    that are prepared by non-Christians (except for meat sacrificed to idols,
    but that’s not really an issue anymore).

  18. John Enright says:

    “The episcopal priest can wave his hands around all he wants. He cannot bless anything.” Great. LOL!

  19. Sandy says:

    Eric, that is an amazing idea! Don’t know what Father Z. would say, however. I know priests who bless salt (and yes, the old book of blessings has a more powerful blessing, as Father says) to use as a sacramental. It can be used in cooking, but even more valuable, I think, to put around the house since it doesn’t evaporate as holy water does. We are so blessed as Catholics with all our treasures.

  20. Magdalene says:

    I have blessed salt. I sprinkled some all around an abortion clinic once which was near where I worked and I did this when I got called in after hours and no one was around.

    It did end up closing…

  21. Fr B OFM Conv says:

    thankfully I was given a Collectio Rituum on the day of my ordination nearly four years ago and have only used that for blessings. The theology, language, sacredness of blessings are incomparable with the washed down Book of Blessings, which in conscience I couldn’t even use to bless animals on St Francis Day!!

  22. Fr Paul McDonald says:

    On the very day of my priestly ordination I went into the church as soon as I could sneak away and exorcised and blessed salt and water. “Take *that*, Satan ! “

  23. Luigi says:

    Thanks for your responses.

    We have arrived at a point where a Christian alternative to kosher salt causes some of us – us, mind you – to worry that it hints of that which foments hatred for Jews, and that’s considered reasonable. We may as well just apologize for being Christian and get it over with.

    The idea may be seriously strange (agreed) or downright idiotic, it might even tend toward simony (minus of course the fact that the wannabe blesser can’t bless) but that’s a huge leap away from anti-semitic.

    One of the unintended consequences of sniffing anti-semitism around every corner – something the ADL and some overly sensative Christians have turned into an art form (present company excluded; I am thinking of certain Christian organizations) – is that the seriousness of authentic anti-semitism is blurred.

  24. Dan W says:

    Selling “Christian salt” is certainly misguided, but I can at least understand that it’s an attempt to sell a sacramental, and not necessarily anti-Semitic. When it comes to “rye, pickles and bagels,” however, I can’t think of any reason why someone would want to buy a “Christian branded” version other than out of a desire to avoid the profits from their sale going to Jews.

  25. Mike Morrow says:

    Mitchell NY wrote:

    “Just curious though Father, The Book of Blessings, that you mention should be scrapped
    entirely, is that a possibility? I mean has that ever happened before, where a approved
    book of the Church is used for decades or longer and then suppressed or abrogated in
    favor of a former?”

    What do you think happened to the Roman Missal in use before Vatican II? It was used
    with little substantive change for 14 centuries, then scrapped almost overnight by
    Bugnini revolutionaries…banned and suppressed for fourty years, while the Church faithful
    cowered in shameful acceptance without protest (not even a whimper). But I’m not bitter.

  26. Dan W wrote: When it comes to “rye, pickles and bagels,” however, I can’t think of any reason why someone would want to buy a “Christian branded” version other than out of a desire to avoid the profits from their sale going to Jews.

    Exactly… and that IS anti-semitic. However the motivation for the products seem to be to keep Christianity in the forefront, not to keep profits from going to Jews.

    You can read the AP article here and it speaks volutmes:


  27. Mike Morrow says:

    The report states:

    “…if the line proves profitable, Godlewski will attempt to expand the product line with
    Christian branded rye, pickles and bagels…”

    This effort has very obvious anti-Semitic overtones. This guy is a charletan.

    By the way, kosher salt is NOT used in the kosher cooking process. It is used in the
    kosher meat “kashering” process to raise and remove the blood. Leviticus contains
    prohibition against consuming blood.

    The meat is covered with the coarse salt to draw the blood out. This must be done within a
    certain time after slaughter, and is often performed by kosher butchers. There should be
    very little remnant of the salt at the time of actual cooking.

  28. Scott RP says:

    Father – many news sites nowadays will have these “Share” links (little icons or links) that appear next to news stories. Readers can then Share the story on their Facebook page; it appears as a posted item. This is what I’m referring to. When I find a news story I think is very noteworthy, I share it to my Facebook page and all of my friends can read it. I would love to do that with some of your posts. For an example, see the very top of this story. There’s a link called “Share on Facebook” http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D96OM9AO1&show_article=1

  29. dark_coven says:

    Hello Father,

    Here’s a video clip of Fr. Jojo Zerrudo chief exorcist of the Diocese of Cubao (Manila, Philippines) exorcising and blessing salt and water after Holy Mass in the Traditional Form of the Roman Rite.


    Father, if my moral theology is correct, I believe that if a person truly believes that what he’s doing is gravely sinful (but objectively and in reality it is not sinful) he still commits mortal sin. I already forgot my reference on this. But it is only my opinion (unless I’m mistaken) that the Episcopal “priest” mentioned would still be committing sacrilege or simony even though objectively speaking, he cannot confect the blessing and exorcism, if he truly believes that he can “actually” do it, and is informed that selling “blessed” items is sinful, he would still be committing sin.

    Instavrare Omnia In Christo

  30. Will says:

    Ironically, the home page for the outfit selling the so-called Christian Salt says this:

    All our ingredients are Kosher Certified and FDA approved

  31. Kristen says:

    If one uses blessed salt on popcorn, must any remaining popcorn and kernels be buried?

  32. Sandra in Severn says:

    Both my grandmothers would have some (blessed salt) in the “visitation” box, a special crucifix that had stored inside some of the supplies for a “sick-call/last rites” (candles, cotton, a couple vials of holy water, oil and salt).

    Our military parish priest has heard of it being done, but has not done it himself. So where might I start, this posting I think is timely since I have been wanting to buy the one I saw at an antique store and restock it properly.

  33. Erin says:

    I’ve never heard of a Catholic blessing for salt or salt as a sacramental. What is one supposed to do with the salt after it’s blessed?

  34. Theodorus says:

    Salt can be used just like holy water; you can sprinkle it around wherever you want or add it to food for spiritual or temporal welfare.

  35. All the comments down to here assume the Episcopal priest was not a real priest. But what if he is an ex-RC priest — ordained in the Roman church. Would he still be a validly ordained priest after his defection and his acceptance by the Episcopal church? Would he validly, although illicitly, confect a sacrament or sacramental, assuming he uses the proper form and matter and has the proper intention?

  36. MargaretMN says:

    Wasn’t salt used in the rite of baptism at one point?

  37. Daniel Nekic says:

    I never saw an answer to Eric\’s question about a priest going to a salt deposit and blessing the whole lot.
    Is it possible?

  38. Mitchell NY says:

    Mr. Morrow,

    Thanks for your comments and I thought about the 1962 books being supressed, but to complete the cycle of my question it would mean redirecting the attention from the 1962 books and refocus them on the 1970 Missal if at some time they are supressed and we return to the 1962 books universally. The result would be a de facto admission that the works were not worthy in some way or another which warrented a return to what was. Which may be the case in the future with the Book of Blessings or perhaps even the truncated Breviary…I was wondering if there was any solid case out there that this has been stated..Perhaps centuries ago?

  39. joe says:

    I had heard salt in Baptism is used to consecrate the new Catholic’s tongue. And since a priest’s hands are consecrated during Holy Orders, that is why the Holy Eucharist should only touch the priest’s hands and the Communicant’s tongue.

    True or False ?

  40. Corleone says:

    The episcopal priest can wave his hands around all he wants. He cannot bless anything.

    I LOVE IT! Now if I had said that I would be met with boos from the front row. So, I’m glad you said it, Father (and said it well).

    Regarding hawking sacred things, what about the sale of holy relics? Is that also verboten? Or is it only bad when clergy sell them? I’m kind of lost here.

  41. Tiny says:

    I always get confused by the salt metaphors; apparently being the salt of the earth is a good thing, but salting the earth is not!

  42. Steve says:

    From a Forbes article last May about selling Holy Relics:

    “Catholic canon law now plainly forbids their sale. But the door to buying them is left open by an injunction that Catholics “rescue” relics. If, for instance, a Catholic sees a relic in a pawnshop, he or she is obliged to buy it, so that it won’t be used for blasphemous purposes by a nonbeliever.

    Read the entire article here:


  43. Folks: Don’t advertise businesses unless you check with me first.

  44. Blessed salt can be sprinkled as one sprinkles holy water, used to mark boundries, used in cooking, mixed with warm water and used as a gargle for a sore throat, given to sick persons and animals, etc. Food leftovers can be disposed of in the normal way, i.e. they do not have to be buried or burned. However, one should not be indiscriminate in its use. It’s a sacramental. Use common sense.

    Blessed salt is used at Baptism in the EF. It does not consecrate the tongue in any way. Rather, as we read in the Rituale Romanum, “in the rite of baptism salt is especially a symbol of wisdom–that the subject be given a relish for heavenly doctrine; and a symbol of a blessed immortality–that he be preserved from final corruption.”

    As to the question of a priest blessing road salt, it could be done in that the salt would be blessed, but it would be extremely imprudent and sacrilegious. Sacramentals are to be used neither indiscriminately nor casually.

    The selling of relics is always simony. The buying of relics is a participation in the sin of the seller and is also simony. Even buying them to ensure the relics are not desicrated is not advisable. It only gives dealers an impetus to keep trading in relics. Additionally, it is very likely that anyone sufficiently lacking the scruples to sell relics would not hesitate to sell fake relics. Further, in the United States, trafficking in human body parts is illegal, and under the law that includes all 1st class relics with the exception of the Passion relics. The article from Forbes Steve links to is incorrect when it states that “If, for instance, a Catholic sees a relic in a pawnshop, he or she is obliged to buy it, so that it won’t be used for blasphemous purposes by a nonbeliever.” This is absolutely false. There is no such obligation. [It would be laudable, if it were fairly sure they were real, but not obligatory.] To make the statement is irresponsible of the author. Those who read it and take it seriously are most likely those who don’t have the money to purchase the relics. Also, it is impossible to vouch for the authenticity of the relics even with documentation, which can also be counterfeited. The Church does not and never would require this.

  45. I received the following e-mail from an Anglo-Catholic priest in reaction both to my top post and to some of your comments which followed.   In justice I must share it with you, not as a point for your discussion, but as a way of correcting the focus.  My emphases and comments.

    Rather than take the thread of the exorcised salt post down a rabbit hole, I choose to address you in this manner. [e-mail]


    I am surprised, and more than a bit offended, that so many of your correspondents can correctly identify the latent anti-Semitism in the discussion of using kosher salt to make Christian salt with further reference to the possibility of rye, pickles, et al, while, at the same time ignoring the clear anti-Anglican comments regarding the Episcopal priesthood.  [I don’t see the anti-Semitism, but… oh well….]


    Now, mind you, I do not expect you to endorse the validity of the orders that I hold since Leo XIII has forbid such an endorsement from your side of the Tiber. On the other hand, I think your position could be much more charitably expressed than the “wave his hands” comment and the LOL responses that it evoked[You have a point.]


    As a traditionalist, Anglo-catholic (Who, by the way, when blessing Holy Water does use the slavishly accurate English translation of the Roman ritual) who prays daily for the corporate reunion of the Church under the See of Peter, I do have to tell you that there are only two things that stand in the way of my submission to Rome.


    The first is the severe liturgical poverty that I would have to endure. [Yes… this was a common problem for both the former Anglican laymen and clergy I know who eventually came to swim the Tiber.] Throughout my ministry, I have offered the Liturgy using our version of the EF. (Yes, I know you believe it to be “absolutely null and utterly void”)  [I think it is invalid.  Whatever else it is, God can provide while working with the good will and disposition of the people involved.] The thought of being faced for the rest of my life with the Novus Ordo (I live, after all, in the Diocese of Albany) is something I have not been able to consider.  [I am entirely sympathetic.]


    The second obstacle is the attitude of many Roman Catholics who spend their time belittling the ministry of others. I really do not understand it. Why is it so impossible for traditionalist Catholics to speak and write with charity about the religious persuasions of others?   [Actually, I have written very favorably about traditional Anglicans in this blog and have several friends who are now Catholic priests but were once Anglicans.  I don’t bear any antipathy at all, though I can understand why you might think that from what I originally wrote, above.]


    I would not ask you to endorse, support, believe, or in any way promote the Anglican Tradition, but is it too much to ask for charity?  [No, it is not too much at all.]


    Just perhaps, it might allow many of us to embark on the journey home.

    I have, in response to this, edited my comments at the top and I offer my expression of regret. 

  46. RBrown says:

    Now, mind you, I do not expect you to endorse the validity of the orders that I hold since Leo XIII has forbid such an endorsement from your side of the Tiber. On the other hand, I think your position could be much more charitably expressed than the “wave his hands” comment and the LOL responses that it evoked.

    Let’s be historically accurate.

    The invalidity of Anglican Orders is NOT based on Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae. As the document plainly states, AC re-stated what had been held for centuries.

    The occasion of AC was Leo’s plan to re-establish the Catholic hierarchy in England. Suddenly, the knees of Anglicans, who for centuries mostly could have cared less what Rome thought, began to buckle at this prospect. And so they petitioned Rome to re-examine the situation.

  47. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    I do not expect you to endorse the validity of the orders that I hold since Leo XIII has forbid such an endorsement from your side of the Tiber.

    If only post-VII Catholics could occasionally cite something as old as Leo XIII. Pray for the TAC to cross the Tiber. And pray our liturgical situation won’t horrify them too much.

  48. ALL: This is not going to devolve into a discussion of Anglican orders.

  49. Luke says:

    With regard to the blessed salt: Every sensible thing the Church uses has a spiritual significance. Thank you, Fr. Z., for lucidly illustrating the myriad applications of the word: salt. Truly, its significance has been laid bare in your commentary. I suspect that Colossians 4:6 has been meaningful to you for some time.

    As for charity: It’s easy to forget that God calls all men from a wide array of lifestyles. None of us ever arrive at the fulness of truth within the bounds of a single choice. The usual modus operandi for climbing the mountain of God is to make everyday choices for “the good” that bring into focus the person God created us to “be.” The love of God compels us to respect his work in our neighbor. This acknowledgement on our part is required if we intend to run the race to the finish ourselves (Luke 10:25-27).

    Thank you again, Father, for taking the time to share this with us.

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