Carmel Mission’s St. Junipero Serra statue was covered in paint shortly after he was canonized.
Only a few days after the Pope canonized Father Junipero Serra to the sainthood, the newly canonized saint’s statue and resting place was vandalized. The vandals broke into Carmel Mission, where the cadaver of St. Serra is buried, and poured paint over his statue, toppled other statues and damaged the gravesites. Looking at the target of such destruction, which were mainly the tombstones of the people with European origin, and that none of the Native American tombstones were touched; the police will be investigating the matter as a hate crime.
After splashing paint across the cemetery and the basilica, the vandals etched “Saint of Genocide” on one of the headstones. This action, though surprising and unacceptable, may have a hint of truth due to the various controversies that surround the saint.
Serra was an 18th century friar and a Franciscan missionary who established 9 of the 21 missions for Spanish in the area that grew into modern California. Serra had arrived in California in the year 1769 and upon arrival saw the native indigenous tribes as heathens. He felt that they really needed the Gospel and as a result baptized thousands of Native Americans. According to Pope Francis, the friar “sought to defend the dignity of the native community.”
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However, for some others, it might not seem the same. When the Spanish arrived, they brought diseases along with them that destroyed the native population. The Spanish were also known for cruelly flogging and punishing the indigenous people who disobeyed their orders and tried to leave their mission. The role that Serra might have played in these acts of violence is disputable and has been a matter that has been largely debated on various university campuses and halls of Legislature.
Before his canonization, some legislators had even tried to replace a statue of Junipero Serra with that of astronaut and educator Sally Ride, who has a less controversial past than the saint.
The Carmel Missionaries expressed their shock at this unexpected case of vandalism and the act of destruction on a sacred property. The members of the Carmel mission were planning a celebratory event this Sunday, however ended up cleaning up from the vandalism. They hope that the people who vandalized the premises will soon accept their wrongdoing.