QUAERITUR: I saw a woman walk away with Host, put It in pocket

Help. Fr. Z in England!
From a reader:

At my confirmation “spirit” day my parish priest asked me to altar
serve. At communion one of the eucharistic ministers gave the host to
a lady and I saw her walking very far with it and I started walking after her, she cracked it in half and I believe she put half of it in her pocket. I ran to the deacon and he just said “thanks” and I told the priest and he said “Sometimes people make mistakes”. I almost cried. Who do I go to right now? He won’t make any announcements and he really doesn’t seem like he cared. I am questioning how much he believes in the true presence. What should I do?

No Communion in the handA terrible experience to be sure.

What should you do?

There is little you can do at this point about what happened in the past.

However, if this is something that is happening regularly, then it must be brought to the attention of proper authority.  That means the local bishop and/or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.   The CDF would be involved because it would involve profanation in a concrete instance.  Concerning the regular practice of Communion in the hand which could be leading to danger of profanation, you would contact the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

In the document Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

It may be that the woman who took the Host or part of the Host had the desire to take it to a sick person at home and therefore thought a) she was doing a good thing or b) she had the right to do it.

Again, if this is happening regularly in that parish, or more than one person is doing this, then there is definitely “risk of profanation”.  If the parish priest is unwilling or unable to something about “risk of profanation”, then higher authority must.

What should take place in that parish, in my opinion, is that the pastor should give a workshop with clear instruction about how to distribute and when not to distribute.  Also, he should post in the bulletin and also preach from the pulpit about the proper manner of reception of Communion.  If there are more than one instances of this he should suspend Communion in the hand.

If this sort of thing is happening in the parish regularly, and the priest and the deacon(s) seem uninterested, then you may have the responsibility to bring this to the attention of the bishop of Congregation.

Toward the end of Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:

[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

You can always write to your local bishop, explaining what you saw happen, and then ask what you ought to have done after the parish priest did not seem concerned.  You always have the right to write to the bishop, and in this case you did already speak with the pastor.

If you write, don’t editorialize and don’t run any one down.  Be brief and respectful, sticking closely to the facts without lots of additional commentary.

Finally, I think that Communion in the hand increases the risk of profanation exponentially.  For that reason it should be suspended everywhere.  But that is above my pay grade.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Philangelus says:

    I could have written this! About 10 years ago when I was still a lay minister of the Eucharist, I saw exactly this happen. After Mass I approached the woman and asked why she’d done that. She said her husband was too infirm to walk to the front of the church for Communion, so she was bringing it back to him. I explained that I would be more than happy to bring it to him AFTER Mass. She said they didn’t want to attract attention.

    I approached the pastor, and he said, “It doesn’t matter. Let her do it.”

    I didn’t know what to do, to be honest. I never saw her again because I was never slotted to that side of the church, but I assume she kept doing it because no one cared to stop her.

  2. soutenus says:

    I wish that priests WOULD explain to their congregation that doing such a thing is absolutely, positively wrong. I know it could be done in a loving way — I do not understand why it is not. I have NEVER heard a priest explain this before Mass.
    I am a convert and when I attended my RCIA classes I do not remember this even being discussed.
    I think it is so important because I was one of those people who thought it was OK to take the Lord to someone (in the form of the blessed Host) who was gravely ill. This was over 20 years ago — when I started learning more about my faith (I guess I am a convert and revert) I was appalled to learn what I had done was SO very wrong.
    I wish priests or deacons would say something or put the information in the church bulletin, at the very least.

  3. Oh, man. If they really didn’t want to stop her, why didn’t they give her a pyx and make her an EMHC? And if they really did want to stop her, why didn’t they man up and teach them both why this is important?

    Argh argh argh argh argh. So much careless abuse, so many remedies you could employ instead.

  4. Arieh says:

    At one parish I attended a Host was found once in one of the pews. The very next Sunday the pastor had a very long and forceful explanation about how we need to care for and consume the Eucharist. He also had ushers stand on either side of the front of the church to make sure no one was walking away with the Host. This Dominican didn’t mess around.

  5. Tina in Ashburn says:

    How much more profanation is going to be allowed? Why why why does the Church allow unconsecrated hands to ever touch the Holy Eucharist?

    I too have seen awful things …

    I agree with Father – PLEASE suspend this abuse everywhere immediately.

  6. William says:

    When writing bishops or similar higher-ups on matters such as these, “This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.” This first and foremost! Next, be brief, concise, and accurate (have documentation where appropriate). Also, best your communication be hand-written, and always mark “personal and private” on the outer envelope, or the intended party will never see it!!

  7. laurazim says:

    I saw this happen on Christmas morning. I was cantoring that day, and was standing just off of our priest’s left shoulder, singing the music for Communion. A man whom I knew was not Catholic came forward with his wife’s family (who *are* Catholic, and who are regular parishioners) in the line. He held out his hands, and when the priest held up the Sacred Host and said, “The Body of Christ,” the man said, “Thanks,” and smiled. He turned to walk away, and made a motion near his pocket. I have never seen anyone fly, but the vestments on the priest really made it look like that’s exactly what he was doing! He followed this man clear to the back of the church–and then out the doors! He was gone for quite a while…I think it was near to four or five minutes, during which time the Communion song ended, and so…well, we began it again, because there remained a long line of the faithful waiting to recieve Our Lord. (No EMHCs!)

    I spoke to the priest after Mass. He was relatively new in the parish, and so while he knew who the core family, he did not know the extended family. (It’s a rather small town, so most people know one another and their families.) I let him know who the man was, and that he would likely not have heard the end of it. Indeed, the man was hoping to “get that thing outside” so he could examine it and try to figure out just what it is we Catholics think is so important about a “wafer.”

    This good priest is now very leary of administering the Eucharist into the hands of the faithful, and continues to keep an absolute eagle eye, which is very comforting. I *long* for the day of exclusive reception on the tongue….

  8. irishgirl says:

    I’m with you, Father Z-I look for the day when Communion in the hand is suspended!
    I also *long” for the day of exclusive reception on the tongue, as laurazim said.

  9. Margo says:

    A few months ago I had to go to my bishop regarding an incident with a parish priest who refused to hear Confessions one Saturday afternoon because he had just come from another event and, as he put it: “I can’t be in two places at once!” It was Divine Mercy weekend (of all weekends for that to happen) and I was so disappointed. I wrote a letter to the bishop. Anyway, my point is – it does work to take it to the next level.

  10. Marcin says:

    She said they didn’t want to attract attention

    There is nothing better than a priest or a deacon drawing attention by walking up to the infirm in the nave _during the Communion rite_ to distribute it personally without delegating to the EMHC.
    They ARE in the service of the Sacraments, and it would show.

  11. momoften says:

    Obviously the only way around any of this is Communion with intinction. I believe that is the only way St Cyrils and Methodius distributes Communion at every Mass…and of course kneeling—I think more churches and diocese should follow suit. Reverence and awe is best obtained on your knees.

  12. Philangelus says:

    Marcin, it wouldn’t have attracted attention AT ALL to have done this after Mass. But without the backing of the priest, what was I going to accomplish alone?

    At a different church during daily Mass, I looked down one to find half a host on the floor right near my two year old, who might have received his First Holy Communion right there and then if I hadn’t moved quickly. After Mass, I hunted around to find another quarter-host, but I couldn’t find any more of it. I brought it to the priest, who thanked me but didn’t otherwise appear concerned.

    Either this is Our Lord, or it’s not. If the Eucharist is His Body, then we should treat it as such. No? **weeps**

  13. DominiSumus says:

    The servers at my home parish are trained to watch for people walking off with the Blessed Sacrament and to either alert the priest or to actually stop the person.

  14. Melody Faith says:

    I would agree with momoften that intinction would be a good deterrent, as well as a couple of other commenters that EMHC should be limited.

    I’m ashamed to say that we have a recurring case of this type of thing in our parish, but most likely of a more nefarious nature.

    I’ve spoken to the pastor about it and he says we should just pray for the individuals.

    It is clear that these persons are not interested in the Mass itself. They stay outside the church until communion, talking and texting. They do not say any of the prayers or give the sign of peace. They only enter the church to receive communion and then leave immediately, to someone waiting in a car. One of them receives in the mouth, but makes a motion to his mouth and eventually to his pocket. The other two receive in the hand and make a motion to their mouth, but always seem to move their hands again to a pocket or a purse.

    I’ve tried to talk to them, but they always rush away. As I mentioned, the pastor
    has told me to pray for them, and that is the extent of what we can do. I do think that limiting the use of EMHC would be good. They always receive from one, but right next to the priest distributing.

    Thank you, Father Z, for giving me another route to try. I sensed deeply that there was something else I needed to do, but found ways to justify inaction.

    Please any prayers in this matter, for my own strength, an openness from the pastor and bishop to taking action, and the conversion of these young people are appreciated.

  15. Shadow says:

    @Philangelus: I’ve seen it happen a few times. Each and every time it breaks my heart.

  16. DavidJ says:

    @Melody Does your parish have ushers? How about some KoC? I think they’d be well able to help insure said person does right by Christ.

  17. Melody Faith says:

    We’ve got ushers and KoC. Also, about 10 or so EMHCs per mass on Sunday, and about 10 different exits people can use. I am making an appt with the pastor and will propose the use of the ushers and KoC. Any other suggestions? I want to make it as easy as I can for him.

  18. introibo says:

    DominiSumus, good going on the part of your parish. Anyone placing the Sacrament in pocket or purse must be confronted and the Sacrament brought back to the priest saying Mass.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Our priest on Sunday had a long sermon on this, as five Consecrated Hosts have been found on the floor in three years. One was found this past Sunday.
    As there is satanism in the area, especially in Iowa City, this is an issue. I do wish Communion in the hand would stop, altogether.

  20. MJ says:

    I agree with Father — suspend the practice of communion in the hand! I’d love to see parishes start scheduling holy hour reparations for blasphemies and abuses committed against the Body of Christ as a result of distributing the Eucharist in the hand.

  21. eleison123 says:

    I am a teacher at a Catholic school. Once we had a Mass where many of the extended families of the children were present- some of which who were not Catholic. At Communion time, I noticed an elderly woman present herself quite awkwardly for Communion and say “thanks” after receiving the Sacred Host in her hand and then take it and walk back to her seat. I saw her have it in her hand and show it to the people sitting next to her- one who laughed and the other who looked surprised.

    Well, at this point I was all sweaty and anxious because I wasn’t sure if I should have said something or asked the priest or what, so I brought it to the attention of some other faculty- we all were unsure of how to handle this and then a Brother who teaches said I should ask her if she was Catholic and if so, to ask her to consume the Host, otherwise for me to ask for It and consume the Host myself.

    When I asked her quietly if she was Catholic, she turned and handed me the Host. I consumed it and returned to my seat.

    After Mass, I went up to her and said, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you, but…” to which she smiled and grabbed my hand and said, “Oh thank you, honey, you didn’t embarrass me and I knew I shouldn’t have received Communion, my son is Catholic and he told me so, but…” (I think she just stood up and followed the line and didn’t know to just stay seated). I then told her about crossing her arms to receive a blessing (I KNOW many people here have real issues with that as well and I don’t mean to change the topic, but it is a huge custom over here where Catholics are a slim minority and many school Masses and other Masses have MANY non-Catholics- if they are going to walk up (and they will), I think it’s best that they get a blessing, not the Eucharist) and she said thank you.

    SO, my question is, was that what I should have done? Is something like that reserved for the priest, deacon, EMHC?

  22. ray from mn says:

    I was a lookout at a recent Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul (in St. Paul) when the homosexual Rainbow Coalition had announced that it would be present to protest the Church’s teachings on homosexual activities. When this happens the Cathedral uses only priests and deacons to distribute Communion (the Precious Body only) to the congregation.

    Only about 25 attended Mass and wore the rainbow ribbon signifying their protest. It was announced ahead of time and Communion was refused to them. I didn’t notice any unusual incidents involving demonstrators. But I did notice a deacon prying a Consecrated Host out of the hand of a teenage girl (not wearing a ribbon). I’m not certain what she had attempted to do, but I was pleased to see the deacon taking action.

  23. kat says:

    When did the Church suspend the cleansing/anointing (I don’t know the words used) of the spot where Our Lord in the Host has fallen? If a Host falls on the ground during Holy Communion, there is a white cloth put on the floor after the Host is picked up, and then immediately after Mass (or maybe after Communion distribution), the priest goes and cleans the floor, where Our Lord touched, in a special way. Even in the awful case where someone vomited right after receiving Communion, Father has to specially clean it. When and why did this cease?

    Maybe if it was brought back, people would realize the priest can’t come “clean up” their pockets or purses, and might realize there’s Something more than blessed bread in their possessions.

  24. priests wife says:

    Protestant friends have said that one big reason they aren’t Catholics is that if we REALLY believed in the True Presence, why are so many Catholics so cavalier about it?

  25. DavidJ says:

    “This is a hard teaching” That and poor catechesis. Mainly the latter.

  26. Pete says:

    Has this person actually done anything wrong?

    The accuser states “I believe she put half of it in her pocket”. First off I always took belief to mean mental accent to a proposition upon the word of authority – did someone in authority tell her or does she mean think? Anyway is would seem that the accuser is not certain.

    Receiving communion in the hand was this persons right and we should, as Fr. Z write,’ uphold people’s right to receive it that way”.

    “consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister” is a bit ambiguous. It is obvious that one does not completely (or possibly event started to) consume before the “minister” has moved onto the next person. May be in the presence means before the end of communion.

    “no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand” away from where? The altar rails? They don’t exist anymore. “goes away” must mean exiting Church? Surely it’s OK for an elderly woman to hobble back to her pue to consume… It all about interpretation…

    There is only one Catholic Society that refuses to give communion in the hand. Can anyone guess?

  27. danphunter1 says:

    “I agree with Father – PLEASE suspend this abuse everywhere immediately.”

    As long as the present form of “collegiality” exists in the Church, it will not happen.

  28. JohnMa says:


    De Defectibus states that:

    “45. If a consecrated host or any particle of it falls to the ground or floor, it is to be taken up reverently, a little water is to be poured over the place where it fell, and the place is to be dried with a purificator. If it falls on clothing, the clothing need not be washed. If it falls on a woman’s clothing, the woman herself is to take the particle and consume it.”

    I know that this happened when I was serving about a month ago and this procedure was followed to a t.

  29. kat says:

    Thanks JohnMa.

    So, if Hosts are found on the floor or in the pews after Mass, this should still be done, I would guess. And without a Pyx, It shouldn’t be in a pocket, right?

  30. Konichiwa says:

    Recently, my parish priest gave a short explanation about receiving Holy Communion, receiving on the tongue, and receiving in the hand. He explained that people originally received in the hands, but then people were profaning the Host. Thus, Communion was to be received only on the tongue. He gave an example of people by burying the Host into the ground thought that they could have better crops. But later, Communion in the hand returned, because people know better today. Oh really??????????????????

  31. MattnSue says:

    Pete: You ask if this person has done anything wrong, and then start your discourse on this hypothetical situation by basing it on the reader’s fact that they “believe” the host was placed in their pocket. While this is legitimate, this qualifier was the basis for what he said to the priest and deacon. It was after hearing about this that the reader was dismayed that there was no big deal, and THIS was what he was asking father what to do about. Besides, the reader states as fact that “I saw her walking very far with it and I started walking after her, she cracked it in half and I believe she put half of it in her pocket. ” The aforementioned qualifier does not occur until after the communicant “walking very far,” so obviously your thoughts on ambiguity are not in effect here. I personally was trained at my 1st communion that if we receive in the hand, we place the host in our mouth, and THEN move to the side for the next person to step up. I’m sure you could respond that obviously not everyone was trained by Sr. Paschal like I was, but I can think of no reason that someone would “walk far away” before putting the host in their pocket, and still be able to say the consumed it immediately. I’m not sure whether your post was an attempt to simply use any excuse to put traditionalist thought in a bad light, or if you really care about the innocence of this person who the reader mentioned, but it does not seem that your defense seems congruant with the facts as they were presented in the initial post.

  32. frjim4321 says:

    This comes up from time to time. At my home parish long before the ancient practice of communion in the hand was restored there were a rash of such incidents. Our pastor, Dear Doc Brennan, nearly had a stroke over it. About a year ago we had a situation here where someone found a likely consecrated host in one of the cement butt-disposal urns outside of the church. It was horrible. I put a suitable letter in the bulletin and we have not had a similar situation since.

    The fact is if someone is intent on desecrating a host they will attempt to do so whether or not distribution is limited to the more recent “on the tongue” fashion.

    The horror of this is that finding a discarded host in the church is not the worst of possible descrations . . . I am quite sure that black masses do in fact exist in this part of the country, and it is well known that the most sinful aspect of those masses is desecration of the sacred speces.

  33. Tina in Ashburn says:

    kat, I share your dismay and bewilderment at how cavalier the clergy is about purifying places that the Holy Eucharist falls. I have only seen ONE priest immediately act on purifying, or at least covering the spot in all my years.
    Years ago, one good priest in our Diocese would immediately stop distributing Communion if a Host fell, and at least cover the spot with a white cloth. Then after Mass, would weep as he purified the area.
    I haven’t seen this for years – even the good, orthodox priests will take note, but do nothing immediately. It is SUCH a teachable moment if the laity sees a priest stop everything when such a thing happens.
    At a parish that I visit sometimes, in my husband’s hometown, the Precious Blood was being distributed by an EMHC. A communicant bumped into the chalice and the Precious Blood spilled hugely all around. NOBODY DID ANYTHING. I involuntarily gasped loudly from the pew as I watched the horrible incident. Nobody else even paused. I never saw the priest do anything about it and I stayed after Mass to make my thanksgiving as usual. He was “busy” out back greeting his parishioners while Jesus was on the dirty floor.

    I do not understand why the Precious Blood is distributed along with the Precious Body in a separate chalice – those that partake of this custom typically have the impression that they are not getting “all” of Communion unless they partake of both species.

    Intinction is a wonderful custom however, and avoids the opportunity for unconsecrated hands touching the Holy Eucharist.

    How long must we endure, O Lord?

  34. MJ says:

    Pete, I’d be curious to know the answer to your last paragraph, “There is only one Catholic Society that refuses to give communion in the hand. Can anyone guess?”

    I know of multiple societies whose priests refuse to give communion in the hand, the FSSP being one of them.

  35. AnAmericanMother says:


    Sounds like something needs to be done – I agree with you that it sounds very nefarious.

    KofC and ushers is a good idea. Large, burly ushers, preferably ex-military or with law enforcement experience, is also a good idea.

    Back when we were Episcopalians, we didn’t have a lot of trouble with people stealing the Host (although it was a ‘high’ parish and generally members believed in the Real Presence – no EMHCs, communion kneeling but in the hand – maybe satanists don’t hang out at Episcopal churches) but in the run-up to General Convention 2003 we had a lot of rainbow protester types. My husband was head usher at the High Mass, he’s ex-Army (he’s also 6’6 and around 250#) and he assembled a team of ex-soldiers and sailors and some martial arts types to handle any trouble. It was generally enough for them to casually surround the potential protesters and they stayed in their seats like lambs. If they made a move to rush the altar or start a demonstration (as they did occasionally), they were invited outside to ‘talk it over’ and nobody ever refused. And it all happened without most of the congregation even knowing that something was up. It was a remarkable thing to watch my husband move his team around just with an eyebrow.

  36. Norah says:

    At daily Mass yout get to know the regulars. At one Mass I saw a woman who was new to me so I watched when she went up to receive Holy Communion. Sure enough she put the Host in her pocket. I followed her out of church but couldn’t catch up with her because, at that time, I was walking with a stick. I went to the sacristy and told father and pointed out the woman who was then leaving the church grounds. Father said to trust in God and went back into the sacristy. *sigh*

  37. kelleyb says:

    Several years ago, I followed a family to receive Communion. I notice the young man in front of me did not consume the Host but ” put it in his pocket”. When we returned to our places, I told his father what the young man had done. The parent ignored me. I hate being a nudge, but I said it several more times. Each time a bit louder. I was ignore by the parent, but the young man finally consumed the Host.

  38. introibo says:

    Eleison123, sounds to me like you did the right thing.

  39. Bender says:

    What should you do?

    You could go to the priest or deacon while they are distributing Communion and, by that time, the person may be long gone. You can complain to the priest or bishop, etc. afterward. You can go and argue that this is why receiving in the hand should not be allowed.

    Or, you could go up to the person and politely ask if they still have the Host and, if they say “yes,” you can POLITELY insist, if they are in fact Catholic, that they consume the Host immediately or, if they will not, that they give it to you, so that you might properly bring it to the priest. And, after Mass, you could politely and charitably explain to them why it is improper to pocket the Host, either for honest good reasons or for bad reasons.

    That is what I did when I saw it happen by a well-dressed 50-year-old man. A man much bigger than me, but who immediately complied when I firmly but politely spoke to him.

  40. Melody Faith says:

    AnAmericanMom- Thanks for the idea. How I long to see deeply devoted, and manly men in such roles everywhere!

  41. Pete says:

    You missed the point. The subtext of this thread is to ban (or suspend) communion in the hand, hence the image and the number of responses in support of this.

    The accuser was not certain and, as Fr. Z points out, there may have been an innocent reason. Yet from the responses it is clear that the person is found guilty of putting it in her pocket and of “profanation” in one post.

    And because of this single, uncertain and unsubstantiated report communion in the hand should suspended? This would be the response from your NO bishop.

    To start suspending communion in the hand is to start suspending VII. It ain’t going to happen (not without a fight), on the contrary, you’ve got to uphold people’s right to receive it that way.

    No MJ, you know of priests who would SAY they would refuse to give communion in the hand. If you were to stand in front of a Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer or FSSP priest they would have to give you communion in the hand – it is your right (see here: https://wdtprs.com/2009/02/quaeritur-insisting-on-communion-in-the-hand-at-a-tlm).

    I asked Fr. MM this question (pointed him to the above page): Can I receive communion in the hand if I attend a Mass celebrated by you? He refused to respond. Why? Because he would have to say yes. Because if he said no I would only have to contact his Bishop and would have to correct himself. The FSSP are no different.

  42. AnAmericanMother says:

    Melody Faith,

    You’re exactly right — this is an example of what manly men can do for the Church that nobody else can do. Even a little chubby loud-mouth Southern Woman Of a Certain Age (like me) appreciates that.

    Odds are your parish has former military, current reservists, law enforcement, and so forth. The law enforcement types are trained in situation defusing and peaceful intervention. When my husband was in the Army, they ALL got some military police training no matter what their branch. Your pastor probably knows who they are. An appeal to them to be ushers or Guardians of the Blessed Sacrament would touch their hearts (and their pride). I think he would get a good response.

  43. kat says:

    Pete said:
    “I asked Fr. MM this question (pointed him to the above page): Can I receive communion in the hand if I attend a Mass celebrated by you? He refused to respond. Why? Because he would have to say yes. Because if he said no I would only have to contact his Bishop and would have to correct himself. The FSSP are no different.”

    Yes; even former SSPX priests who are now in FSSP would have to give Communion in the Hand if told to; along with concelebrating N.O. Masses if the bishop so asks them. It’s called “compromise.”

  44. John Pepino says:

    Dear Pete,

    “To start suspending communion in the hand is to start suspending VII.”
    John Pepino

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