- - Sunday, February 19, 2012

RUSSIA

Cars circle central Moscow in anti-Putin protest

MOSCOW — Hundreds of cars circled central Moscow during an opposition demonstration Sunday to demand that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin allow free elections in Russia.

As they traveled along the wide Garden Ring, which makes a nearly 10-mile loop around the Kremlin, the cars flew the white ribbons and balloons that have become a symbol of the peaceful anti-Putin protest movement.

Sunday’s demonstration took place two weeks before the presidential election, which Mr. Putin is expected to win. Although none of his four challengers poses a serious threat, Mr. Putin does need to get the majority of the vote to avoid a runoff.

A similar protest in support of Mr. Putin late Saturday drew what police said were 2,000 cars.

IRELAND

Envoy: Pope consistent on stopping abuse

DUBLIN — The Vatican’s new American envoy to Ireland says Pope Benedict XVI has been “relentless and consistent” in seeking to oust child abusers from the priesthood worldwide.

Archbishop Charles Brown spoke Sunday at his first public Mass following his arrival in Ireland, a traditionally Catholic land rattled by nearly two decades of pedophile-priest scandals.

Archbishop Brown, a 52-year-old Manhattan native, has never been a Vatican diplomat before.

He spent a decade working alongside today’s pope inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That powerful Vatican body enforces church policies, including the removal of pedophiles from the priesthood.

Ireland accuses the Vatican of undermining several state-ordered probes into the church’s cover-up of abuse crimes.

GREAT BRITAIN

Police make arrest in killing of popular vicar

LONDON — British police hunting the killer of a popular vicar who was stabbed to death in a peaceful English market town said Sunday that they have arrested their prime suspect.

Kent Police said Stephen Farrow, 47, was detained overnight in Folkestone, near the major port town of Dover.

The Rev. John Suddards’ body was discovered Tuesday by workmen at the vicarage in Thornbury, about 125 miles west of London.

Police say Suddards was stabbed multiple times in his home.

Suddards was a former lawyer who joined the clergy after suffering serious injuries in a car crash. His brutal death made national headlines.

VATICAN CITY

Pope leads cardinals in Mass

Looking weary during a third straight day of speeches and ceremony, Pope Benedict XVI led 22 new cardinals in Mass on Sunday and prayed for help so he and his aides can continue to carry out the Catholic church’s worldwide mission.

Many of the men who sat before the pope in front of the Baroque central altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, dressed in white robes and wearing their new red hats, will likely vote in secret conclave for Benedict’s successor.

Benedict, who turns 85 in April, read a long homily in a hoarse voice and looked tired on the third straight day of speeches, rituals and appearances for the new cardinals. Benedict told the new members of the College of Cardinals their main task is to “bear witness to the joy of Christ’s love.”

The Vatican has been embarrassed by months of intrigue involving alleged corruption and apparent jockeying for power within the hierarchy with a view to the next papacy.

The leaking of documents and a rash of in-house scandals have been interpreted by observers as indications that Vatican insiders see Benedict’s attention to the Holy See’s bureaucracy as waning.

Since becoming pontiff in 2005 after the long papacy of John Paul II, Benedict has concentrated much energy on improving Christian unity, reaching out to disaffected Anglicans and working to bring ultraconservative Catholic defectors back into the fold.

But his own curia - as the Vatican’s heavily centralized bureaucracy is known - appears to be dividing into factions amid nasty power plays.

From wire dispatches and staff reports