Plants of hope in spain's church

How it is about the faith firmness of the Spanish youth, experts see differently. Alfredo Rodriguez Sedano, a sociology professor at the Pontifical Opus Dei University of Navarre, agrees: "The fact that up to a million young people are taking part in World Youth Day shows the importance of faith for today's young people."Recent surveys by the Spanish Youth Institute, however, contradict this thesis.

The number of practicing Catholics among Spain's young people dropped from 30 to 10 percent in the past decade. Conversely, the number of those who say they are atheists increased from 10 to 30 percent. But Rodriguez Sedano insists. A slight majority of Spanish young people still describe themselves as Catholic. Religion plays an increasingly important role in their lives, especially during the economic crisis, when 44 percent of young people can't find work, he said. Many young people discovered in faith something that society and politics could not offer them – security and a sense of life. This view of the sociologist is confirmed by a survey of the Spanish newspaper "La Razon": According to this, many young people feel protected by their religion against the uncertainties and difficulties of life. Around 70 percent of those surveyed said they were convinced that their faith helped them to face up to the major challenges they faced.

The Catholic Church also wants World Youth Days to provide guidance in the face of unemployment, temptations like drugs or dangers like AIDS. Past large-scale meetings have shown that many participants subsequently chose priesthood, religious life or Christian marriage, Rodriguez Sedano said. Madrid's Archbishop Antonio Maria Rouco Varela is certain that the next few days will have a similar effect: "A new generation of Catholic young people emerges from each World Youth Day, and although they are only a minority in Europe and Spain, they are a large minority."

Role of the medi
Rouco Varela does not yet give up on Catholic Spain. "Perhaps many no longer have that attachment to the Church and faith as previous generations, but they are very responsive to the great questions of life and the proclamation of faith."According to the cardinal, when young people turn away from the faith, it is often neither the fault of the young people nor of the church: he sees the blame rather in the Spanish education system, in the media, which convey a negative impression of the church, and in the families, which pass on Christian values to the children less and less often.

Evaristo Villar, on the other hand, points to the influence of the secular reform policy under Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He is a priest and spokesman for "Redes Cristianas," a network of Catholic reform movements that advocate, among other things, more democracy in the church, equal rights for women and better recognition of homosexuals. The introduction of same-sex marriage or the liberalization of abortion has reinforced to young people that the church is not right, Villar says. Conversely, this policy has bound devout young people even more strongly to the church. They had "radicalized themselves in a society that was increasingly hostile to them," the priest said.

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