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Local tribe reinforces opposition to Serra sainthood

Amah Mutsun Tribal Chairman Valentin Lopez, right, and Amah Mutsun member Nick Carabajal pray in the four directions for balance during the Mass of Reconciliation at Mission San Juan Bautista in 2012.

The local Amah Mutsun tribe is reinforcing its opposition to the sainthood of Junipero Serra through a letter recently sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.
According to Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, the tribe Thursday delivered a second letter to the governor opposing the Serra canonization while restating a request for a meeting with Brown.
Lopez wrote in an email that “many California Indians the missions represent enslavement, whippings, torture and the rape of our ancestors.”
The message went on: “During the mission period it is estimated that 150,000 Indians died. Most of these deaths were caused by the wretched living conditions established by Junipero Serra. Neither California missions nor Junipero Serra’s methods are worthy of secular state pride or honor.”
The Amah Mutsuns have pointed to South Carolina’s governor calling on that state to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds and the tribe has started an online petition in support of the cause.
It came after Native Americans gathered in San Juan Bautista in July to pray that Pope Francis reverse his decision to canonize Serra. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band hosted the ceremony on the grass in front of the San Juan Bautista Mission.
Speakers addressed the “brutality of the mission system”—of which Serra was a leader—and its “legacy of historic trauma that continues today,” according to a flyer for the event.
“How can the church consider making him a saint based on the treatment of the California Indians?” Lopez told the Free Lance earlier this year. “It just does not make any sense at all to us.”
But Deacon William Ditewig, the director of the Diocese of Monterey—which includes the San Juan Bautista mission—has argued that the context of the Pope’s declaration is important and that saints don’t need to be perfect. He said they just need to have some qualities worth imitating. The deacon added that when the pope originally suggested Serra for sainthood, he was flying out of Sri Lanka where he had just declared another priest for canonization who left home to spread the Gospel, just as Serra did.
Katie Helland contributed to this report.
To see the online petition, go to: