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Pope to Make San Francisco’s Original Gentrifier a Saint

Break out your fourth-grade history textbook—Father Junipero Serra is back.

Father Junipero Serra

Father—soon to be Saint—Junipero Serra. 

 

There’s still time for history to absolve you, Zuckerberg. Time is kind to all men. Pope Francis announced he will canonize Father Junipero Serra, the controversial founder of California’s missions—including San Francisco’s Mission Dolores—as a saint. The formal ceremony will take place in September when the Pope visits the East Coast.

According to Reuters, the Pope made the announcement while speaking to reporters on a plane traveling from Sri Lanka to Manila, telling them, "In September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States, who was the evangelizer of the west of the United States." The canonization raises the possibility that the Pope will visit the West Coast during his fall trip the United States.

Serra, born in Majorca in 1713, arrived in San Diego in 1769 and spent the rest of his life establishing a network of missions along the West Coast—which you already knew, of course, from having to build a diorama of one of them when you were in fourth grade. (We still have the Sacramento mission in our parents’ garage.) Serra has long been considered a candidate for sainthood within the Church, which usually requires the presence of two miracles attributed to their intercession. He was beatified, a required step towards sainthood, by Pope John Paul II in 1987, and Pope Francis announced he would be waiving the second miracle requirement in the case of Serra.

Of course, questions have been raised Serra's role in the enslavement of native Californians at the missions. As historian Steven W. Hackel wrote in Common-Place, “To millions, Serra is more than the founding father of what would become the state of California, [but] to his detractors, Serra embodies an evil system that promoted cultural genocide, sanctioned corporal punishment, and initiated the demographic collapse of California’s Indians.” He also brought the practice of wine-making to California—so you, know, a little from Column A, a little from Column B.

Serra is expected to be named the patron saint of landing a Friday night table at Foreign Cinema, of scoring some primo-grade stuff from Truffle Guy on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and of complaining that Burning Man is dead over $14 micheladas while Skyler and Elsa are their pre-teen yoga class.  

  

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