When Norma Flores first heard about Pope Francis’ plans to canonize Father Junipero Serra, she cut her hair. Standing outside San Gabriel Mission in Los Angeles, she explains it’s a sign of mourning. Flores is outraged that the person she sees as responsible for the destruction of indigenous culture in California is being made a saint.
Outside San Gabriel Mission is a bronze statue of Serra himself. He holds a staff in one hand and a crucifix in the other. San Gabriel is among the nine first missions founded during Serra’s time as father-president.
Flores works with the Kizh Nation/Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians, and authored a petition, which currently has more than 10,000 signatures, opposing the pope’s plans to canonize Serra in Washington, D.C., this week. In recent months, indigenous people have also protested outside San Francisco’s Mission Dolores, Mission Carmel and Mission San Juan Bautista.
The Pope’s decision to canonize Serra took some by surprise, as the church has validated only one miracle attributed to him after his death: a St Louis nun who claimed she was cured of lupus after praying to him in 1960. Normally, people need two miracles confirmed before they can be canonized.