In California parents who want their child to get positively noticed for his early school work quickly learn that its important to acquaint him with the state’s old Spanish missions and the 17thcentury priest who helped found them. Thats why it might not be a surprise that Pope Francis plans to canonize Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States in 2015.
Those Catholic missions become almost as important to young public school students in California as any American landmark, and the Spanish priest is elevated to a status near that of the founding fathers.
Pope Francis has just announced his planning to canonize Serra when he visits the U.S. later this year, although in California the founder of those first missions has long been accepted as a secular saint already in the state he helped settle and Christianize.
Thats important in the popes thinking, who says he is officially making Junipero Serra a saint because he is already widely regarded as such.
In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States, Pope Francis said Thursday aboard Sri Lankan Air Flight UL4111 on the way to Manila. He was the evangelizer of the west in the United States.
Junipero Serra’s legacy in California
In California, where countless schools and museums are named after Serra, many Catholics and non-Catholics alike are now hoping that his canonization means that Pope Francis will broaden his September itinerary to include California.
In Los Angeles, city officials began contacting checking the availability dates at the Memorial Coliseum, Dodger Stadium, the Rose Bowl and other large venues that could accommodate an outdoor canonization mass in September — in hopes of appealing for a visit.
In some quarters, news of Serras canonization even stole the thunder from the Academy Awards nominations announced early Thursday morning.
Ok I know the Oscar noms are a mess as always, tweeted San Francisco Chronicle columnist Caille Millner, but can we talk about @Pontifex canonizing Junipero Serra because !?!?
Fr. Junipero Serra’s story
Serra, a Franciscan priest who founded the first nine of 21 eventual missions in California, is credited with working tirelessly with the Native Americans, baptizing more than 6,000 people, and confirming 5,000.
The missions pioneered by Serra were part of the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast region, the most northern and western of Spain’s North American claims at the time.
The Mexican government secularized the missions in the 1830s and divided the vast mission land holdings into land grants that became many of the Ranchos of California.
Today the surviving mission buildings first founded by Serra are Californias oldest structures and the most-visited historic monuments.
The California Mission Trail
They were connected along the 600-mile long “California Mission Trail.”
But Serras canonization has been met with controversy among some who question his role in human rights violations in the settling of the American West.
He was also the enslaver of thousands of California’s Indians, wrote Gustavo Arellano, editor of the Orange County Weekly.
In 2000, Arellanos publication published a critical account of Serras treatment of Native Americans.
All Native Americans in the area surrounding a mission were urged to come to it and be converted to Christianity, the article reported. Once converted, the Native Americans were bound to the mission — told where to live and work, and what to eat and wear.
If an Native American misbehaved, he was whipped. If he ran away, he was hunted down and brought back and whipped. All surrounding land was held in trust by the mission. After 10 years, when the natives were at last civilized, the land would in theory be returned to them; but that was a rare outcome.
Will Pope Francis visit California?
The popes American itinerary is not yet decided, beyond being in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, Sept. 25-27.
Other stops could include New York City and Washington, D.C., Cardinal Pietro Parolin of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State told reporters early this year.
Pope Francis said that since Serra has for centuries been considered a holy man, he has waved canonization rules requiring a second miracle to be attributed to the candidate for sainthood after his beatification.
Pope John Paul II beatified Serra in 1987, the first step in the process leading to sainthood.
SEE ALSO: 10 tips from Pope Francis to be happy
While technically a verified miracle would be necessary for sainthood, on Thursday Pope Francis said he is moving forth with equipollent canonization which he said can be done by express papal order without the verification of a miracle.
In practice, this person is venerated as a saint, Francis said. Thus, the miracle process is not carried out. These are people who for centuries, perhaps, are in this state.
The post California’s Junipero Serra could become Americas new saint appeared first on Voxxi.