Los Angeles renames Father Junipero Serra Park, despite Catholic praise for sainted missionary

By | October 16, 2021

Garcetti said the city plans to issue a formal apology, give Native Americans priority access to the park, and work to determine what lands should be given to them.
The Los Angeles mayor’s Civic Memory Working Group released an April 2021 report on engagement with the past. It does not mention Serra or Catholicism specifically. It acknowledges the “history of erasure of the Indigenous people of Los Angeles,” endorses statements of apology or reconciliation, and recommends “clear practices to ameliorate and/or decolonize the practices of erasure and exclusion.”
Also speaking last Monday was Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Oklahoma-based Wyandotte Nation, a federally recognized tribe. O’Farrell’s remarks were explicitly critical of Serra.
“Places like Serra Park, named after Junipero Serra who in this region led local subjugation and conversion efforts on behalf of the Catholic Church, are a powerful symbol of past wrongs,” O’Farrell said, according to KABC News.

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Archbishops Gomez and Salvatore explicitly criticized a California bill’s claim that Serra oversaw a mission system that included “enslavement of both adults and children, mutilation, genocide, and assault on women.”
“While there is much to criticize from this period, no serious historian has ever made such outrageous claims about Serra or the mission system, the network of 21 communities that Franciscans established along the California coast to evangelize native people,” they said in their essay, contending lawmakers base their claims on a single tendentious source, a book by journalist Elias Castillo.
CNA sought comment from the Los Angeles archdiocese but did not receive a response by deadline.

Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services’ Egan Journalism Fellowship.

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