Sep 24, 2015

"one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel"

Pope Francis canonizes Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary to California during Spanish colonization:


The recognition of sainthood is not without controversy. As Sarah Pullman Bailey writes for the Washington Post, many hispanic Catholics are thrilled. But, she writes,
For many Native Americans, however, Serra is no saint. The Indians who joined the missions that Serra built were forced to shed their own culture, including their religion, dress and food. Thousands of them died prematurely from diseases common in Europe ... 
Treated as a hero by many in California, Serra established Catholic missions along its coast as he marched north with Spanish conquistadors. A statue of him stands in the U.S. Capitol, where each state is allowed two statues. Some historians and the Catholic Church focus on Serra’s dedication to Native Americans, while others say he oversaw and even contributed to a system that mistreated tribes.
In the mass, Francis spoke of Junipero Serra as an embodiment of the church that brings the "reconciling tenderness of God" to the world. He also talked about the missionary's efforts to protect the natives from the violence of the colonizers, from the mistreatment and wrong "which today still trouble us."

Serra is the first saint to be canonized in a mass celebrated in the US. The last North American to be recognized as a saint was Kateri Tekakwitha, an Algonquin-Mohawk woman born in what is now New York. She was canonized by Pope Benedixt XVI in 2012.