Spanish missionary Junipero Serra to be canonized in September


Pope Francis announced that he would canonize Junipero Serra as a Saint during his visit to the U.S.

Spanish missionary Junipero Serra will be made a saint later this year, the Vatican confirms. Pope Francis will canonize Serra on Sept. 23 during his visit to the United States, NPR reports.

Serra, a Franciscan friar, founded the Mission of San Diego in 1769. With the Spanish army building fortresses nearby, Serra moved north and created eight other missions. The native population was forced to become Catholic and live in the missions. People who didn’t comply with Serra’s rules were “severely punished,” even to death. Diseases brought by the new population were also spread to native tribes.

With this background, Serra’s canonization has drawn criticism. The Vatican has responded that while charges of corporal punishment are not to be excluded, “it wasn’t genocide.”

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez has defended Serra by saying that his writings and other records “prove his efforts to defend the native peoples, particularly against the cruelty of the Spanish soldiers and governors.”

Pope Francis announced his decision already in January. He didn’t wait for the traditional approval of a second miracle before moving ahead with canonizing Serra. The Vatican has stated that the canonization will give the United States its first Hispanic saint and help counter an “Anglo-centric” view of history.

Junipero Serra died in 1784.


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