Native Americans oppose Junipero Serra canonisation

Native Americans are voicing their opposition to the canonisation of Blessed Junipero Serra, which the Pope plans to do on September 23.

A Spanish Franciscan, Blessed Serra introduced Christianity to much of California as he marched north with Spanish conquistadors in the 18th century.

Many Native Americans, though, say Blessed Serra and other missionaries helped wipe out native populations, enslaved converts and spread disease as they brutally imposed Christianity on them.

There have been protests in California and there is also a move to remove Blessed Serra’s statue from the US Capitol.

Tribal councilwoman for the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, Louise Miranda Ramirez, said her tribe has decided to oppose the canonisation.

“We are not speaking up against the religion, we talking about the man himself and his acts and that the Church needs to hold him responsible,” she said.

Ramirez said she is a Catholic and in her eyes Blessed Serra is no saint.

Vatican officials defended Blessed Serra’s record, saying it shows he worked in defence of Native Americans, often intervening to spare them from the more brutal colonial officials.

Franciscan Fr Vincenzo Criscuolo said it was important to look at Blessed Serra as “a man of his time” who, like many others at the time used corporal punishment as an educational tool.

“It is not to be excluded, but it wasn’t ‘genocide,’ it wasn’t a death penalty,” he said.

Pope Francis is scheduled to attend a day honouring Blessed Serra at the Pontifical American College in Rome on May 2.

The Pope plans to canonise Blessed Serra on September 23 during a Mass on the lawn of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

This would give the US its first Hispanic saint.

Fr Paul Murphy, pastor at Carmel Mission Basilica in California, said it is important to remember in Blessed Serra’s case that canonisation does not mean a person lived a life without fault.


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