According to the San Francisco Examiner, an arts commission memo said people had called for the statue to be removed because “the allegorical sculpture’s depiction of the degradation and genocide of Native American peoples, utilizing visual stereotypes common at the turn of the twentieth century to depict all Native Americans which are now universally viewed as disrespectful, misleading, and racist.”
Pope Francis canonized the friar in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23, 2015.
“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” the Pope said in his homily at the Mass of canonization. “Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”
“Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life,” the Pope continued. “He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters.”
That same year, some California legislators had sought to replace a statue of Junipero Serra in the National Statuary Hall in Washington with a statue of Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut in space. Pope Francis visited that statue of Serra.
The San Francisco statue was completed in 1894 by the American sculptor Frank H. Happersberger. The costs to remove it could run from $160,000 to $200,000. It will be placed in storage.