LIMA, Peru ( - The Catholic Church is the institution with the highest credibility among Hispanic youth while political parties and trade unions have the lease respect, according to a poll released this week.

      The survey of the level of confidence in public institutions in 21 Hispanic countries -- including Spain and Portugal and those in Latin America -- was carried out early this year by Spanish scholar Tomas Calvo Buezas, a professor at Madrid's Complutense University, sponsored by UNESCO.

      According to the poll, 44% of Spanish teenagers between 13 and 19 years old don't trust any institution, while 40% trust in the Catholic Church, followed by the police (21%). In Latin America, the Catholic Church tops the ranking of confidence with 67%. The second largest group are those who don't trust any institution. In Latin America, the lowest ranking goes to the legislative bodies, political parties, and trade unions.

      The poll, carried out among 44,000 students in 21 countries, also revealed that 40% of the youth would not vote for any political party or candidate in their own country, and no political figure appears among the most admired personalities. In Spain, the most admired person is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, followed by Pope John Paul II, while in Latin America the two Catholic figures switch places: the Holy Father is the most popular personality, closely followed by the late nun.

      "The poll strongly questions the stereotype of youth being against institutions organized by dogmas or strong principles," Calvo said. "It is clear that a demanding life has still an appeal for youth." The number of young Hispanics who show confidence in the Catholic Church even "largely exceeds the 34% that are actually practicing Catholics," he added. Calvo was especially surprised by the fact that in Spain, 40% of the youth believe the army deserves their confidence, while 40% of Spanish youth oppose military service.

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April 7, 1998 volume 9, no. 69         DAILY CATHOLIC