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The group, Asocamu, was set up in 1995 to promote rural repopulation by organizing parties for single men and woman, but Spain’s painful financial crisis and the lure of city jobs has made the need more pressing than ever, Manuel Gozalo, one of the organizers, said Sunday.

Many villages are falling into ruin, with national statistics showing that of Spain’s 5,000 villages up to 100 are under imminent threat of abandonment.

RUSSIA

Tens of thousands pray for Russia’s church

MOSCOW — Tens of thousands prayed outside Moscow’s main cathedral on Sunday to show their support for the Russian Orthodox Church in a controversy over a punk rock political protest.

Christ the Savior Cathedral was the scene of a brief surprise performance in February by a female punk rock group protesting Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. Three members of the band remain in police custody and face up to seven years in jail on charges of hooliganism.

Their harsh treatment has provoked a public outcry and contributed to growing criticism of the church, a powerful institution with close ties to the Kremlin.

Patriarch Kirill has portrayed the punk performance as part of a broader attack on the church, considered by many Russians to be part of their national identity and an intrinsic part of a powerful state.

He had called on believers to attend Sunday’s service to pray “for our faith, our church, our sacred objects and our fatherland.”

The church maintains that desecration of icons and other acts of vandalism have become more frequent since the punk protest. As the patriarch led a procession around the cathedral, priests carried a crucifix and an icon that had been damaged in attacks elsewhere in Russia this spring.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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