Pope Francis canonized Serra in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 23, 2015, saying that "Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,"
Father Elewaut, said in his Sunday homily that while it is true that many Native Americans died after contact with Europeans, "it wasn't a purposeful or contrived death" because most of them died of disease, which no one at the time fully understood.
Father Elewaut was present at the June 20 rally, and said he hopes the peaceful dialogue in which he and the Chumash elders have so far been engaged can be a model for the nation, to show that controversial statues need not be torn down by force.
The idea that Serra created what were akin to "concentration camps" for the Natives is "categorically false," Elewaut said.
"The blame cannot be put on one person, or one movement...but the hurt that they feel, the the pain that we should join with them in feeling is true, and it remains true, and it will remain true whether our statue stands or not,"
"But if [the removal] brings some healing, if that brings some peace of mind, then so be it...statues come and go, but the truth will be laid bare," the priest said, acknowledging that the statue will be removed from its current location, but the Church's mission will continue.
The mission will continue to be a sign of God's grace, regardless of the location of any particular statue, he said.
"Serra wanted to share what he truly believed to be the great gift of Christianity, of Catholicism, of sacramental life," the priest said.
Elewaut said he has been working with the elders of the Chumash tribe, for whom he has "profound respect." He hopes to continue to work with the Chumash, some of whom are parishioners at the mission.
Elewaut told Ventura's ABC affiliate that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is open to moving the statue from City Hall to mission grounds. The LA Archdiocese did not confirm this by time of posting.
Serra was instrumental in founding the first nine of the 21 missions in California, many of which would form the cores of what are today the state's biggest cities- such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
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A native of Petra Mallorca in Spain, Serra was a renowned scholar who gave up his academic career to become a missionary in North America.
Serra arrived in Mexico City in 1750, entering the vast territory of New Spain. The Spanish had been in North America for over 200 years at that point, after Hernan Cortez' conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1521.
While many activists today associate Serra with the abuses that the Native Americans suffered, biographies and historical records suggest that Serra actually advocated on behalf of the Natives against the Spanish military and against encroaching European settlement.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco decried "mob rule" that led to the tearing down of Serra's statue in his city.
Cordileone said in a statement June 20 that he did not want to "deny that historical wrongs have occurred, even by people of good will, and healing of memories and reparation is much needed. But just as historical wrongs cannot be righted by keeping them hidden, neither can they be righted by re-writing the history."
The archbishop praised the saint's missionary zeal: "St. Junipero Serra also offered them the best thing he had: the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, which he and his fellow Franciscan friars did through education, health care, and training in the agrarian arts."