The request for minor basilica status was presented to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments in 2014 by the mission’s pastor, Fr. Thomas Elewaut.
Elwaut welcomed the announcement on Wednesday, calling it “a joyous occasion” for local Catholics.
“Archbishop Gomez notified me on the eve of St. Junípero Serra’s feast day, July 1, that Mission San Buenaventura is elevated to a Minor Basilica. On behalf of our parishioners, I am most grateful to His Holiness, Pope Francis for this recognition and to Archbishop Gomez for his unwavering support for this petition which began in 2014,” said Fr. Elewaut.
“This is truly a joyous occasion for our parish – an honor that stretches beyond the Mission even beyond the Archdiocese – as well as our city and county and a worthy way to celebrate the feast day of St. Bonaventure today.”
The mission was founded by St. Serra on Easter Sunday 1782, the ninth and last mission established by the Franciscan saint. Many of Serra’s missions form the cores of what are today the state’s largest cities— including as San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
An advocate for native people and a champion of human rights, Serra was often at odds with Spanish authorities over the treatment of native people, from whom there was an outpouring of grief at his death in 1784.
Serra was canonized by Pope Francis during a visit to the United States in 2015.
Bishop Barron said he was “absolutely delighted” by the news.
“This is a tribute to our great Archdiocese of Los Angeles and an acknowledgement of the splendid evangelical work that has taken place at the mission for over two hundred years. May God be praised!”
The announcement of the elevation of the San Buenaventura Mission comes days after a fire devastated another local mission founded by St. Serra. Early Saturday morning, a four-alarm fire destroyed the roof and interior of the 249-year-old San Gabriel Mission church, founded in 1771.
Despite Serra’s record defending indigenous peoples, statues of the saint have become focal points for protests and demonstrations across California in recent weeks, with images of the saint being torn down or vandalized in protest of California’s colonial past.
Rioters pulled down a statue of St. Serra in the state capital of Sacramento on July 4. On June 19, statues of the saint were torn down in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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In June, the San Juan Capistrano Mission and its neighboring church removed statues of Serra from their outside displays to preserve them from being targeted.
On June 29, Gomez wrote that while “those attacking St. Junípero’s good name and vandalizing his memorials do not know his true character or the actual historical record,” increased security precautions meant that some California churches would “probably have to relocate some statues to our beloved saint or risk their desecration.”
On July 14, the University of San Diego, a Catholic university, announced that it would take down its statue of the saint, in response to Gomez’s letter.