CNA Staff, Jun 30, 2020 / 13:24 pm
Those who “slander” the legacy of St. Junipero Serra ignore his history of opposing colonial oppression and abuses of indigenous Americans, said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, praising the saint, whom he called the “spiritual founder” of Los Angeles.
“The real St. Junipero fought a colonial system where natives were regarded as ‘barbarians’ and ‘savages,’ whose only value was to serve the appetites of the white man. For St. Junipero, this colonial ideology was a blasphemy against the God who has ‘created (all men and women) and redeemed them with the most precious blood of his Son’,” Archbishop Gomez wrote in his June 29 column for Angelus News.
“He lived and worked alongside native peoples and spent his whole career defending their humanity and protesting crimes and indignities committed against them,” he said. “Among the injustices he struggled against, we find heartbreaking passages in his letters where he decries the daily sexual abuse of indigenous women by colonial soldiers.”
The archbishop called for the observance of St. Junipero Serra’s July 1 feast day as “a day of prayer, fasting and charity.”
Numerous statues of historic figures have been pulled down in recent weeks amid ongoing protests and riots throughout the country. While some protests have torn down the statues 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.
In San Francisco’s Golden Gate State Park on June 20, a mob tore down statues of Junipero Serra, as well as Union general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, and National Anthem author Francis Scott Key. In Los Angeles the same day, rioters pulled down a statue of Serra in the city’s downtown area.
Statues at Catholic churches and missions, including Southern California’s famous Mission San Juan Capistrano, have been relocated for fear of vandals.
Archbishop Gomez voiced understanding for “the deep pain being expressed by some native peoples in California.”