CNA Staff, Oct 20, 2020 / 01:42 am
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco on Saturday performed an exorcism at the site of a destroyed statue of St. Junipero Serra, calling the statue’s destruction by rioters an “act of blasphemy.”
“We pray that God might purify this place of evil spirits, that he might purify the hearts of those who perpetrated this blasphemy, that he might envelop them in his love, that their hearts might be softened and turn toward Him,” Cordileone said Oct. 17 before a crowd of about 150 people.
Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, has been criticized by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say Serra protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.
A Oct. 12 protest at Mission San Rafael Archangel began peacefully but then turned violent, as participants defaced the statue of the saint with red paint before dragging it to the ground with nylon straps and ropes.
Cordileone offered exorcism prayers in Latin before sprinkling the site with holy water. The prayers Cordileone offered at the statue site are not the same as exorcism prayers offered by the Church if a person is believed to be the subject of demonic possession.
This marks the second time that Cordileone has performed an exorcism in connection with a destroyed statue of Serra. A crowd of about 100 people tore down a Serra statue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the evening of June 19, and Cordileone offered exorcism prayers after that incident.
Archbishop Cordileone last week decried the “mob rule” that led to the statue of the saint being “mindlessly defaced and toppled by a small, violent mob.”
“There is no question that the indigenous peoples of our continent suffered under Europeans who came here and their descendants, especially after the mission era ended and California entered into the United States. But Fr. Serra is the wrong symbol of those who wish to address or redress this grievance,” Cordileone contended.