Canonizes Spanish colonial friar
THE SANTA CLARA
September 24, 2015
Pope Francis elevated Junipero Serra, an 18th-century missionary who brought Catholicism to the American West Coast, to sainthood Wednesday.
In the first canonization on U.S. soil, Pope Francis gave Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in North America.
Serra was a Franciscan friar who marched north from Baja California with conquistadors from his native Spain, establishing nine of the 21 missions in what is now California. The pope announced in January that Serra would be canonized.
The decision was polarizing. Serra is revered by Catholics for his missionary work, but many Native Americans in California say he enslaved converts and contributed to the spread of disease that wiped out indigenous populations.
Francis defended Serra, characterizing him as a kind man and open-hearted who protected Native Americans from colonizers.
“He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life,” Francis said. “Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it.”
During a visit to South America in July, Francis offered a broad apology for the sins, offenses and crimes committed by the church against indigenous peoples.
The pope’s apology did little to quiet those who oppose the canonization.
Francis spoke in his native Spanish, and Latino Catholics from California were among the 25,000 people who attended the outdoor Mass. Vice President Joe Biden also sat in the congregation.
Hundreds of faithful gathered at the historic mission in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where Serra is buried, to watch the Mass on a giant TV screen and pray. At the same time, about a dozen Native Americans gathered in a small, aging mission cemetery inside the grounds to worship their ancestors in a silent protest.
Louise Miranda Ramirez, Tribal Chairwoman from the Esselen Nation, said the Franciscan missionaries trapped and abused navite Americans in the mission system.
“These are my ancestors that were whipped. These are my ancestors that were killed, that were hung, and they’re our tribal people,” she said. “Once they had baptized them, they could not leave this ground.”
From AP Reports.