Defending Serra

Defining Blessed Junípero Serra as a “working-class missionary,” Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles said the 18th-century Franciscan deserves to be made a saint and to have his record as a defender of native peoples made known. Pope Francis’ announcement that he will canonize Blessed Serra in September “has opened old wounds and revived bitter memories about the treatment of Native Americans during the colonial and missionary period of America’s history,” the archbishop said. Speaking on May 2 at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Archbishop Gómez said the legacy of Blessed Serra, who founded nine California missions, has been “distorted” by “anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic propaganda.” He added, “It is clear that Pope Francis—the first pope from the New World—understands the Christian roots of the Americas and the continent’s importance for the church’s mission in the 21st century.”

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