Vatican Approves Serra as Saint Despite Opposition by Native Peoples

by on May 7, 2015 · 4 comments

in Civil Rights

Serra no saint demoDespite long and continued opposition by native peoples in California, the Vatican is making it official that Junipero Serra will be declared a saint.

Serra of course is the friar that began California’s string of missions, beginning with the one in San Diego.

The process to canonize Serra has taken decades but the current Pope Francis has personally given his weight to  the effort, which some call “steamrolling” or “fast-tracking” the process, and now it all seems certain.

Here’s what the SFGate described:

The steamroller to sainthood remained an affront to many American Indians, who view the 18th century California mission system that Serra represented to have subjected their ancestors to forced conversions, enslavement and whipping.

“My blood pressure is going up right now, just hearing about it,” said Olin Tezcatlipoca, the director of the Mexica Movement, a Native American group opposing Serra sainthood. “This is a canonization of colonization, white supremacy and genocide. Does that sound saintly to you?”

Mission Dolores and the other 20 California missions were “nothing less than concentration camps,” he said.

“There may not have been any barbed wire or watchtowers, but if you tried to escape you would be punished or killed, and those are the facts. The Catholic Church isn’t even addressing this.”

 In fact there was a protest demonstration on May 2nd at Mission Dolores. Here’s a report from Bay Area Indymedia:

 On May 2, Native American community members and Interfaith supporters, including clergy leaders, demonstrated outside of Mission Dolores in San Francisco to oppose the impending canonization of Junipero Serra by the Catholic church.

Pope Francis has reaffirmed his decision to name Junipero Serra a saint, despite strong opposition from Native Americans who say the man is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people when he helped to establish and then presided over the California mission system in the 1700s.

“My ancestors were directly enslaved at Mission Dolores here, and at Mission San Jose in Fremont, and I want to make sure that the Vatican knows that we, and Native people allies, do not agree with the canonization of Junipero Serra,” said Corrina Gould, who is of Karkin and Chochenyo Ohlone ancestry.

Individuals of Coastal Miwok and Chumash ancestry, two other Californian tribal groups gravely affected by the establishment of the mission system, also spoke at the demonstration.

Serra no saint demo2 

Here’s a report from Huffington Post

The Vatican Fast-Tracked Junipero Serra’s Claims To Sainthood

By Nicole Winfield / Huff Post / 5/06/2015

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s saint-making office has officially given its thumbs up for the Rev. Junipero Serra to be declared a saint — four months after Pope Francis announced he would canonize the controversial 18th-century missionary during his upcoming visit to the United States.

Serra is hailed by the Catholic Church as a great evangelizer who established 21 missions across California. Many Native Americans, though, accuse him of forced conversions, enslaving converts and helping wipe out indigenous populations as part of the European colonization machine in the Americas.

The unusual process that Serra’s sainthood case has taken indicates that Francis personally willed the canonization and that the normal vetting process by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which ended with the Vatican announcement Wednesday, was something of a formality.

In fact, the congregation didn’t even approve a second miracle attributed to Serra’s intervention — the normal way someone is canonized. Rather, Serra joins several new saints simply declared such by Francis in an equivalent process.

The Vatican said Wednesday that the congregation’s cardinals and bishop members had arrived at an “affirmative sentence” concerning Serra’s canonization and that Francis had approved their decision. Last month, a congregation official acknowledged that it would have been difficult for the members to have done otherwise given the canonization ceremony was already scheduled.

In another indication of Francis’ personal involvement in the case, he celebrated a Mass last weekend in Serra’s honor at the main U.S. seminary in Rome — highly unusual given that he will also celebrate the canonization Mass on Sept. 23, his first day in Washington.

The service came at the end of two days of academic conferences organized by the Vatican and the archdiocese of Los Angeles to present Serra more positively as a protector of Native Americans and to correct what church officials say is a gross mischaracterization of his work by indigenous critics.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page May 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm

The histories of all organized religions are rife with violence. Why would the Catholic Church care about a few Indians? Who really gives a s _ _ t if the church wants Serra as a saint anyway? Unless you are Catholic, and have a conscience, give the whole thing the importance it deserves, ignore it.


rick callejon May 7, 2015 at 3:20 pm

I was a devout Roman Catholic, attending parochial schools through the 12th grade. I detest this papal calculus: enslavement plus genocide=sainthood.


Geoff Page May 7, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Well, THAT revelation explains a lot.


Christian Simonetti May 13, 2015 at 11:13 am

So the ostensibly “progressive” pope, who declares his solidarity with the oppressed throughout the globe, reveals his true, loathsome colors. The Catholic Church is one of the most repressive and barbaric institutions in human history. It played an integral role in the colonization of the Americas, in which millions of indigenous peoples perished. It also promotes a viscerally homophobic and misogynistic agenda. The Catholic Church and the pope deserve nothing but our contempt.


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