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U.S. Bishops’ Chairman Expresses USCCB’s Concern that the Strengthening of the Embargo Against Cuba is Counterproductive to the Development of Civil Society on the Island

WASHINGTON— In response to the Administration’s recent policy modifications on Cuba—restricting travel to the island and thus further scaling back the rapprochement between the two countries—Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA, and Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, expresses USCCB’s concern that the strengthening of the embargo against Cuba is, ultimately, counterproductive to the development of civil society on the island.

Archbishop Broglio’s full statement follows:
 

“In light of the Administration’s recent policy modifications on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba, I reiterate our longstanding support for safeguarding religious travel to the island under general license, as well as ensuring the ability of the Church in Cuba to receive religious donative remittances. The very survival of the Church in Cuba is dependent on the freedom of religious travel and donations from abroad. Thanks to the generosity of American Catholics, for decades USCCB has supported the work of the Church in Cuba, providing her with financial, pastoral, and advocacy assistance. The Holy See and USCCB have long held that the key to Cuba’s transformation depends not on isolation, but on greater cultural exchange between freedom-loving people on the island and the United States. A half century of rigid isolation has consolidated only one thing: the very political structures U.S. Government policy seeks to change”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archdiocese of the Military Services USA, Administration, policy, Cuba, Committee on International Justice and Peace, embargo, civil society, island.

Media Contact:                                                                                                                                                       Judy Keane                                                                                                                                            202-541-3202                                                                        

 

 

 

Pascal Siakam: How a Toronto Raptors star got his start in seminary

Toronto, Canada, Jun 5, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- When Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam enters Game 3 of the NBA Finals Wednesday night, he will cross himself and then point upward to the sky. The cross will be to help him remember to give glory to God. The finger point will be for his dad.

Siakam is not like most NBA players. He’s played basketball for only nine years. He grew up preferring soccer. And when he first put on a jersey to shoot hoops, Siakam was a seminarian in Cameroon.

Siakam was a reluctant seminarian. At 11, he began St. Andrew’s Seminary School in Bafia, Cameroon, because his father wanted him to go. He never considered defying his father, who, Siakam told ESPN last year, was the best man he had ever known.  

But Siakam was reluctant enough about attending seminary that he made a habit of breaking the rules, hoping the seminary’s director, Father Armel Collins Ndjama, would dismiss him.

"He turned from a very calm child into a very stubborn boy," Father Collins told ESPN in December 2018.

 "At times, I considered dismissing him, but his academic results were so remarkable, we kept him."

And Siakam thinks that seminary left an impact on his life.

It instilled discipline in young Siakam, which, he said, helped him to succeed later in college and then with the Toronto Raptors.

Seminarians at St. Andrew’s were woken up at 5:30 a.m. to start the day with Mass before proceeding to their daily morning chores. They chopped wood, washed dishes, and cleaned laundry with a wooden washing board.

After chores, the students began classes and then returned to church.

They had one hour of recreation, daily from 5 to 6 p.m. The vast majority of the students preferred soccer to playing basketball. The only hoop was crooked, and sat on a crumbling court.

Siakam fell in love with soccer. He almost completely disregarded basketball. But he did attend basketball camps: first one near the seminary, and then one in South Africa. He went mostly so he could visit a sister who lived nearby. While he was there, he was recruited to play basketball in the U.S. He couldn’t say no.

Siakam's father died in 2014, while the basketball star was beginning his career at New Mexico State University.

The lessons of his father's life stay with Siakam. And although he spent a lot of time trying to get kicked out, Siakam told ESPN that seminary “was the best thing that ever happened to [him].”

That was the hope of Fr. Collins, who knew that Siakam was likely not called to the priesthood.

Fr. Collins told ESPN in December that, "I knew we would probably not be able to train him to be a priest, but I still hoped we could teach him to be a man."

Before seminary, Siakam claims he could not make his own bed, wash dishes, or even do his own laundry.

He was the last in his family —“the kid”— so he “didn’t have to do anything,” as his mother made his older siblings do nearly every chore for him if she didn’t do it herself, he described on the Woj Pod podcast.

Seminary “helped me focus on myself and try to better myself and work hard for what I wanted,” he continued. “It could have been easy for me to be the type of kid that didn’t work for what he wanted cause as a kid, I had everything I needed.”

Although seminary did not teach him how to play basketball, it did teach him how to work hard, how to believe in himself, how to be part of a team.

“I think I know why my dad made me go,” he wrote in 2016 on The Players’ Tribune. “He was giving me all the tools I’d need to succeed. Just as important as his dream for his son to play in the NBA was his desire for me to become my own man.”

Bishops of Argentina pledge to respond to report on abuse allegations

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 5, 2019 / 12:40 am (CNA).- The bishops’ conference of Argentina has said it is examining and will respond to a new report of more than 60 allegations of sexual abuse by priests and religious in the country.

Officials with the conference said they are working on new protocols and actions to protect minors, following the Vatican summit on the topic earlier this year.

A recent report in La Nación detailed 63 cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests and religious of the Church in Argentina in the last two decades. Of these cases, 17 resulted in convictions, 22 are in judicial process, 24 were not prosecuted and 12 led to dismissal from the clerical state.

Among the cases mentioned are those of Juan Escobar Gaviria, who is now serving a 25-year prison sentence; Nicola Corradi, accused of abusing hearing impaired minors at the Próvolo Institute; and Gustavo Zanchetta, the bishop emeritus of Orán and adviser to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy Apostolic See since December 2017, who is under investigation at the Vatican for alleged sexual abuse and the abuse of power.

In their report, La Nación says that the Church in Argentina “for years covered up its priests and religious accused of sexual abuse” through a system of transferring them to new assignments rather than removing them from ministry.

Bishop Sergio Buenanueva of San Francisco warned in a statement that transferring priests accused of sexual abuse was a “habitual” and “totally fatal” practice.

“There is a sick system in the Church that covered up, or inhibited the abuses from coming to light and it ended up favoring the perpetrator,” said Buenanueva, who serves as coordinator of the Pastoral Council for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults of the Argentine Bishops' Conference.

The prelate said they are in the process of making a complete list of the cases, “as other episcopates have done.”

Buenanueva told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency, that the bishops’ conference will take “a few days to assess and evaluate” the report.

In March, during the 117th plenary assembly of the Argentine Bishops' Conference, the bishops called for “a radical break” with conditions of sexual abuse, the abuse of power, and cover up.

“We must renew at its roots the lifestyles and formation structures that have made it possible to create in some clerics a sense of superiority and dominion over the faithful and which have facilitated their living, as if they didn't have to give an account of their actions to anyone, in a situation of veritable impunity,” said the Bishop Oscar Ojea of San Isidro, president of the Argentine Bishops' Conference.

Last month, Pope Francis signed the motu propio Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world), which establishes new procedures to prevent and report cases of sexual abuse within the Church.

The norms establish obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, require that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

The motu proprio also states that every diocese must create a stable mechanism or system through which people may submit reports of abuse or its cover-up. The exact form of the system, which could also be an entire office, will be left to the discretion of the individual diocese, but must be established by June 2020.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration Applauds House for Passing Legislation That Gives Permanent Legal Protection to Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Holders

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, applauds the House of Representatives for passing the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6), legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Dreamers and TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders.

“This is a big step for Dreamers and TPS holders who have called the United States home but have been working and living in uncertainty for years.” said Bishop Vásquez. “Dreamers, TPS and DED holders are working to make our communities and parishes strongand are vital contributors to our country. We welcome today’s vote and urge the Senate to take up this legislation which gives permanent protection to Dreamers, TPS and DED holders.”

In March, the USCCB Committee on Migration penned a letter of support that can be seen here.

More information about Dreamers and TPS can be found on the Justice for Immigrants website.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vásquez, Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez, Committee on Migration, refugees, Dreamers, TPS, DACA, immigration reform

 

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Media Contact:  
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

 

Mexico’s fifth Walk for Peace draws 40,000 participants

Cuernavaca, Mexico, Jun 4, 2019 / 12:33 am (CNA).- On Saturday, an estimated 40,000 people attended the fifth Walk for Peace in Mexico, organized by the Diocese of Cuernavaca, with the goal of stopping the growing wave of violence caused by the country’s major crime gangs.

The tens of thousands of attendees, most of them dressed in white, began the walk around 9:00 a.m. local time from Our Lady of Miracles parish in Tlatenango, Cuernavaca, to the Plaza de Armas, where Mass was celebrated.

“The reality of the suffering of our people demands of us, without a doubt, an attitude of co-responsibility for this reality that we are facing…Before this bloody holocaust of violence we must not be filled with fear. Even though it is a complicated reality, a prophetic Church is required,” said Bishop Ramón Castro of Cuernavaca in his address to the large crowd.

The prelate also called the main crime gangs to conversion and to remember that the violence also affects their families.

“To the principal cartels that operate in our state…you also are sons of God and, despite everything, the Lord loves you. But it's never too late to make things right and be converted!” he said.

“Violence engenders violence and your fighting over territory, drug distribution, money laundering, arms trafficking, not only harms society but also your own children, brothers and parents. For their sake, for the fear of God, we entreat you: be converted, it's never too late, it's always possible, and may we all be converted into a new culture of peace,” the bishop said.

In his talk, Castro pointed to the troubling statistics that position their state as one of the most dangerous in all of Mexico.

Violence in Morelos state – of which Cuernavaca is the capital – is high, with 14,479 crimes recorded in the first four months of 2019. Out of that figure, 404 crimes were homicides.

In the country overall, some 8,500 intentional homicides were recorded in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of almost 10% compared to the same period in 2018.

The bishop of Cuernavaca also warned that half of the state’s municipalities are forced to pay money to the criminal gangs, and that citizens' fear of reporting crime is increased when they know the police may be in collusion with organized crime.

At the end of the walk, Castro said on Twitter that the walk allowed for an experience of grace and community.

“Our people have felt the refreshing breeze of their Lord. Thousands of people united to strengthen their faith and hope! Violence and hatred don't have the last word! Take courage!” the bishop said.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Pope Francis Names Rev. Douglas Lucia as New Bishop of Syracuse; Accepts the Resignation of Bishop Robert Cunningham

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Syracuse and has named the Rev. Douglas Lucia to succeed him. Father Lucia is a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, June 4, 2019 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Father Douglas Lucia, 56, was born on March 17, 1963 in Plattsburgh, New York. He attended Wadhamns Hall Seminary College, followed by Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York. He then attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 20, 1989 for the Diocese of Ogdensbugh.

Assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar of St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown; parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg; administrator, St. Mary Canton; associate secretary to the tribunal and chaplain at Gouverneur Correctional Facility; secretary to the bishop, vocation director, director of seminarians; pastor of St. John Morristown; St. Peter, Hammond; and St. Patrick in Rossie; He has also served as episcopal vicar for worship and priestly formation. Father Lucia was most recently pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Waddington and St. John the Baptist in Madrid, New York as well as judicial vicar for the diocese.

Bishop Cunningham was ordained a priest in 1969. He was appointed the thirteenth bishop of Ogdensburg by Pope Saint John Paul II and has reached the retirement age for bishops of 75. Bishop Cunningham was appointed the tenth bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse on April 21, 2009.

The Diocese of Syracuse is comprised of 5,479 square miles in the state of New York and has a total population of 1,199,000 of which 231,621 or 19.3 percent, are Catholic.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, Rev. Douglas Lucia, Diocese of Syracuse

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

‘We must choose between civilizations of love and hate’ Pope Francis tells Romani

Blaj, Romania, Jun 2, 2019 / 08:45 am (CNA).- The history of humanity still echoes the relationship of Cain and Abel, Pope Francis told the Romani community on Sunday.

In the final stop of his three-day apostolic trip to Romania, the pope met with the minority community, often called “gypsies,” in the city of Blaj May 2. The Romani, also known as “travelers” in much of Europe, form a marginal and minority people present in countries across the continent.

Francis told the community that the experiences of prejudice and rejection they encountered were all too common, and that they “weighed down” on the pope’s heart.

“History tells us that Christians too, including Catholics, are not strangers to such evil. I would like to ask your forgiveness for this. I ask forgiveness – in the name of the Church and of the Lord – and I ask forgiveness of you,” the pope said.

Francis spoke about the Christian call of fraternal love which must animate human encounters, and apologized for times “when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you, with the look of Cain rather than that of Abel.”

Indifference to the other, the pope said, is the beginning of anger, resentment, and prejudice. The Romani community had, he insisted, a unique heritage and character with much to offer the wider Christian community.

“We need those gifts: respect for the value of life and of the extended family, solidarity, hospitality, helpfulness, support and concern for the vulnerable within your community, respect and appreciation for the elderly and for the religious meaning of life, spontaneity and joie de vivre.”

“Wherever you find yourselves, share those gifts and try to accept all the good that others can offer to you,” Francis said.

The pope insisted that the Church must be a place of encounter, where the other is always welcomed and valued, but that this required a constant choice by each person.

“There is the civilization of love and the civilization of hate. Each day we have to choose between Abel and Cain. Like a person standing at a crossroads, we are faced with a decisive choice: to go the way of reconciliation or the way of vengeance,” Francis said.

“Let us choose the way of Jesus,” he said, while insisting that though this way demanded effort and intention, passing through forgiveness, ultimately it was the only road to peace.

“May we not let ourselves be dragged along by the hurts we nurse within us; let there be no room for anger. For one evil never corrects another evil, no vendetta ever satisfies an injustice, no resentment is ever good for the heart and no rejection will ever bring us closer to others.”

The pope remined the crowd that the universal human dignity of each person must be the cornerstone of every interaction, and this was not a requirement exclusive to Christians.

“Deep down, we are not Christians, and not even good human beings, unless we are able to see the person before his or her actions, before our own judgments and prejudices.”

“The Gospel of joy is communicated in the happiness of encounter and the knowledge that we have a Father who loves us. Knowing that he watches out for us, we learn how to watch out for one another.”

Asking for the prayers of the people he met, the pope said that his short trip to the country had be a source of great joy, and his final meeting with the Romani people was a fitting end to his time in Romania.

“Our meeting is the last of my visit to Romania. I came to this beautiful and welcoming country as a pilgrim and a brother, in order to meet all its people,” Francis said.

“Now I am returning home enriched by the experience of different places and special moments, but above all by faces. Your faces will color my memories and populate my prayers. I thank you and I bring you with me.”

Freedom is a challenge to say yes to God, Pope Francis tells Romanian families

Iaşi, Romania, Jun 1, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- At a Marian meeting with young people and families in Romania Saturday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of personal vocation, authentic human relationships, and the freedom given to each person to serve the other.

“The Lord gives us a vocation, a challenge to discover the talents and abilities we possess and to put them at the service of others,” the pope said June 1 in the square before the Palace of Culture in Iaşi.

“He asks us to use our freedom as a freedom to choose, to say yes to a loving plan, to a face, to a look. This is a much greater freedom than simply being able to consume and buy things. It is a vocation that sets us in motion, makes us fill in trenches and open up new avenues to remind us all that we are children and brothers and sisters to one another.”

Francis' speech was preceded by an introduction from Bishop Petru Gherghel of Iaşi, and the testimony of a number of Romanian families.

The pope noted the variety of peoples and languages in Romania, and said that “the Holy Spirit has called us here and he helps us discover the beauty of being together, of being able to meet to journey together.”

At Pentecost “the Spirit embraces our differences and gives us the strength to open up paths of hope by bringing out the best in each person,” and he said this task of “journeying together” is not an easy one.

He emphasized the importance of rootedness in family: “It is the same dream, the same advice that Saint Paul gave to Timothy: to keep alive the faith of his mother and grandmother. As you continue to grow in every way … do not forget the most beautiful and worthwhile lesson you learned at home.”

“When you grow up, do not forget your mother and your grandmother, and the simple but robust faith that gave them the strength and tenacity to keep going and not to give up,” Pope Francis said. “It is a reason for you to give thanks and to ask for the generosity, courage and selflessness of a 'home-grown' faith that is unobtrusive, yet slowly but surely builds up the Kingdom of God.”

Faith is not a tradeable commodity, but “gift that keeps alive a profound and beautiful certainty: that we are God’s beloved children. God loves with a Father’s love. Every life, and every one of us, belongs to him,” he recalled.

“The Evil one divides, scatters, separates; he sows discord and distrust. He wants us to live 'detached' from others and from ourselves. The Spirit, on the contrary, reminds us that we are not anonymous, abstract, faceless beings, without history or identity. We are not meant to be empty or superficial,” the pope said.

Francis stated that the “very strong spiritual network that unites us”, connects and sustains us, “its roots: the realization that we belong to one another, that each of our lives is anchored in the lives of others.”

We flourish in love “because love draws us out of ourselves and invites us to take root in the lives of others,” he said.

The pope quoted from Romania's national poet, Mihai Eminescu, and referred to a story told about the monk Galaction Ilie of Sihăstria Monastery, a prominent institution of Romanian Orthodoxy, to illustrate that “when there is no more Christian love and understanding between brothers and sisters, relatives, Christians and between peoples … when persons lose all their love, then it will truly be the end of the world. Because without love and without God, no one can live on the earth!”

Reiterating the importance of journeying together, Francis said: “Life begins to wilt and droop, our hearts stop beating and wither, the elderly no longer dream and young people no longer prophesy when pathways between neighbours disappear.”

While there are many “challenges that can discourage us and make us close in on ourselves … that cannot make us forget that faith itself offers us the greatest challenge of all: a challenge that, far from enclosing or isolating us, can bring out the best in us all,” Francis said.

“The Lord is the first to challenge us. He tells us that the worst comes when there are no more paths between neighbors, when we see more trenches than roads. The Lord is the one who gives us a song more powerful than all the siren songs that would paralyze us on our journey. And he always does it the same way: by singing a more beautiful and challenging song.”

The pope concluded focusing on the importance of “allowing faith to grow.”

“As I mentioned to you at the beginning: faith is not transmitted only by words, but also by gestures, looks and caresses, like those of our mothers and grandmothers; with the flavour of those things we learned at home in a straightforward and simple way.”

Mary, he said, “is a Mother who encourages her children’s dreams, who cherishes their hopes, who brings joy to their homes. She is a tender and true Mother who cares for us. You are that living, flourishing and hope-filled community that we can offer to our Mother. To her let us consecrate the future of young people, families and the Church.”

Mexican bishops oppose bill to expand legal abortion

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 1, 2019 / 03:03 am (CNA).- Three bishops expressed their opposition to a bill that would expand the legalization of abortion in Hidalgo state in Mexico.

In a joint video message, the bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Hidalgo called on lawmakers to scrap the bill and encouraged citizens to put pressure on the legislators to vote “in favor of life.”

The bill which seeks to reform the Penal Code of Hidalgo, was introduced March 21 by representatives Areli Miranda of the Democratic Revolution Party, and Viridiana Aceves of the Social Encounter Party, along with more than a dozen representatives of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

In the legislative proposal, the representatives state that “the embryo cannot be considered a person or human being before the first trimester of pregnancy is [concluded].”

Currently, abortion is decriminalized in Hidalgo in cases of rape up to 90 days from conception, and in cases of grave danger to the health of the mother or “serious genetic or congenital deformities” in the baby.

The bill seeks to decriminalize abortion on demand through the first trimester of pregnancy. In addition, the bill would allow abortion up to 6 months of pregnancy for minors, handicapped persons and in cases of rape.

Bishop Juan Pedro Juárez Meléndez of Tula stressed that “life is a fundamental and inalienable right and is the basis for all human rights.”

“As the day to pass or not pass the bill, to legalize or not legalize abortion, draws near, with respect and hope, we ask the citizen members of the (legislature) to cast their vote in favor of life,” he said.

“Abortion has no justification,” Juárez said. He lamented that “for more than 40 years, ideologies and big corporations have besieged life and have besieged the family.”

The bishop encouraged the priests in Hidalgo to “intensify evangelization and catechesis in favor of life and in favor of the family. In what we do or don't do, we are playing with the future of our Hidalgo and the future of our Mexico.”

Archbishop Domingo Díaz Martínez of Tulancingo told the governor of Hidalgo, Omar Fayad Meneses, that expanding abortion will not serve the common good.

“Abortion is a problem, not a solution,” he said. “Defending life is the foundation for promoting the common good.”

Bishop José Hiraís Acosta Beltrán of Huejutla argued that “the people of Hidalgo aren't asking for this law, don't need this law and don't deserve this law.”

He asked the faithful to contact their elected representatives and ask them to support life.

He also asked them to pray that the legislators would vote “in favor of life; the right of the will of the mother cannot be used against the right of the child to life.”

U.S. CATHOLIC BISHOPS' DOMESTIC JUSTICE CHAIRMAN ISSUES STATEMENT FOLLOWING SHOOTING IN VIRGINIA BEACH

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, has issued the following statement in response to the tragic shooting at the municipal building in Virginia Beach.

The full statement follows:

“This past Friday afternoon, an horrific act of gun violence took place at the municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia. There are reports of at least twelve fatalities, and numerous critical injuries. This shooting reminds us yet again that something is fundamentally broken in our society and culture when ordinary workplaces can become scenes of violence and contempt for human life. As Americans we must deeply examine why these horrific occurrences of gun violence continue to take place in our communities, in order to root out the causes of such evils. Action is needed to attempt to reduce the frequency of these abhorrent acts through legislation and training. I call on Catholics around the country to pray for the dead and injured, as well as for healing in the community.

May Jesus, whose victory over death we celebrate during this Easter Season, bring consolation and healing at this time of great sorrow.”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Virginia Beach, shootings, Bishop Frank Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

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Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200