"Remembering St. Junípero and the first missionaries changes how we remember our national story. It reminds us that America's first beginnings were not political. America's first beginnings were spiritual," Gomez said in a 2017 homily.
Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan missionary Pope Francis 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."
In 2018, San Francisco's city government removed a statue of the saint from a prominent location outside City Hall. A statue of the saint remains displayed in the U.S. Capitol.
Around the country, protestors and rioters this week have pulled down statues of historic figures. While some protests have torn down the statutes of Confederate figures, as part of a call to end systemic racism, other statues have also been torn down from prominent locations, including one of George Washington.
Grant, whose statue was removed, urged ratification of the 15th Amendment, which assures African-Americans the right to vote, and in 1870 created the federal Department of Justice in order to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan.