Tags: Pope Francis | Religion | pope francis | canonize | sainthood | Junipero Serra | indians

Pope to Canonize Calif. Friar Known for Mistreating Indians

Friday, 16 January 2015 11:34 AM

Pope Francis' plan to canonize a Californian missionary when he visits the United States in September has come under attack over the priest’s "maltreatment" of Native Americans.

Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra will be proclaimed a saint for bringing Christianity to the western part of the country in the late 1700s, according to CBS Los Angeles.

But John Fantz, Museum Guardian for the San Gabriel Mission in California, said, "I’m kind of surprised because Father Serra was instrumental in the maltreatment of the Indians. We have enough saints. We have enough saints."

The mission, an historic landmark, was founded in 1771 by Father Serra, and was one of 21 missions in California created by the friar.

However, Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles praised the Vatican’s decision.

"I was happy and surprised that the Holy Father Pope Francis announced the canonization of blessed Junipero Serra," said Gomez. "It's a great joy for all of us in California, and in the U.S., and, for that matter, for the universal church, because [he] was a blessed man."

But, University of California Riverside history professor Steven Hackel, author of "Junipero Serra: California's Founding Father," agreed that the friar was a controversial figure because of his treatment of Native Americans, although that treatment was permitted at the time, according to the CBS station.

"Spanking or some sort of physical aggressiveness that was their way of correcting wayward people," Hackel said.

"And, of course, in today's world we would consider that to be unacceptable.

"I also should add that missions were, at their worst, unhealthy places where native peoples died in large numbers.

"In that, I think those two things, the physical coercion, the diseases introduced by Spaniards that really ran rampant in missions and reduced native peoples, I think that's probably at the heart of the resistance, or the opposition to Serra and his vision."

But Hackel also noted that Serra played a major role in California’s history after arriving in the state in 1769.

"His greatest accomplishments were, in a sense, establishing California as a region, which, in theory, had a common language, a common religion, and was linked together through a series of roads and missions and presidios," Hackel said.

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Pope Francis' plan to canonize a Californian missionary when he visits the United States in September has come under attack over the priest's "maltreatment" of Native Americans.
pope francis, canonize, sainthood, Junipero Serra, indians, california
Friday, 16 January 2015 11:34 AM
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