Toppling statues of St Junipero Serra disrespects history

The Catholic bishops of California have defended Saint Junipero Serra after statues of the saint were torn down both in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

He was “ahead of his time” in defending the rights of indigenous peoples,” they say.

Those who called for statues of him to be removed or torn down “failed the test” of history.

“The movement to confront racism within our society during these past weeks has been, at times, challenging,” the California Catholic Conference of Bishops says.

“But it has provided bold new hope for every American that our nation can begin to transform key elements of our racist past and present.”

The bishops said they “vigorously and wholeheartedly support” efforts to identify and repair historical instances of racism against members of the African-American and Native American communities.

At the same time, they point out if statues and other public images are to be removed, the history of the individuals must be considered.

“If this process is to be truly effective as a remedy for racism, it must discern carefully the entire contribution that the historical figure in question made to American life, especially in advancing the rights of marginalized peoples.

“What is happening to our society? A renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement June 20.

Cordileone emphasized the importance of calls for racial justice and an end to police brutality, which began after the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“Everyone who works for justice and equality joins in the outrage of those who have been and continue to be oppressed,” the archbishop said.

“It is especially true that followers of Jesus Christ – Christians – are called to work tirelessly for the dignity of all human beings,” he added, noting that St. Francis of Assisi, for whom San Francisco was named, is “one of history’s most iconic figures of peace and goodwill.”

“For the past 800 years, the various Franciscan orders of brothers, sisters and priests that trace their inspiration back to him have been exemplary of not only serving, but identifying with, the poor and downtrodden and giving them their rightful dignity as children of God,“ Cordileone said.

“St. Junipero Serra is no exception.”


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: ,