Canonizing Blessed Serra is call to new evangelization, speakers say

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May 3, 2015

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, looks on as Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson speaks during a symposium on Blessed Junipero Serra at the Pontifical North American College in Rome May 2. The symposium was held before Pope Francis' midday visit to the college to celebrate Mass.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-NAC and SERRA-NAC May 2, 2015.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, looks on as Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson speaks during a symposium on Blessed Junipero Serra at the Pontifical North American College in Rome May 2. The symposium was held before Pope Francis’ midday visit to the college to celebrate Mass. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME (CNS) — Defining Blessed Junipero Serra as a “working-class missionary,” Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said the 18th-century Franciscan deserves to be made a saint and to have his record as a defender of native peoples made known.

Pope Francis’ announcement that he will canonize Blessed Serra in September “has opened old wounds and revived bitter memories about the treatment of Native Americans during the colonial and missionary period of America’s history,” the archbishop said.

Speaking May 2 at Rome’s Pontifical North American College, Archbishop Gomez said the legacy of Blessed Serra, who founded nine California missions, has been “distorted” by “anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic propaganda.”

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