My Californian college’s entry lecture introduced the Franciscan Junípero Serra as the state’s benevolent founding father who protected natives from Spain’s imperial army.
While his Carmel Mission is one of my favourite places, this description is a travesty and Serra was part of a colonial enterprise to subjugate California’s indigenous people.
The mission system he set up was based on brutal coercion and resulted in their effective genocide against which his expressions of piety are simply a sanctimonious façade.
Yet Pope Francis has used his highly politicised US visit to raise Serra to the sainthood – a move which raises the same issues as the Vatican’s campaign to canonise Pius XII.
The Holy Father’s ill-advised remarks on climate change and the global market economy are of little consequence but this action is a theological blunder of the first magnitude.
(Rev Dr) John Cameron