Yaqui Father Serra: Saint to Some, Unworthy to Others
The Associated Press
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September 25, 2015

Junipero Serra served as a Catholic missionary priest more than 200 years ago in what was then called Spanish California. Not everyone agrees that Father Serra should be recognized for his work. Among his biggest critics are Native Americans. (VOA News)

An 18th-century missionary who brought Catholicism to the U.S. West Coast was elevated to sainthood this week by Pope Francis in the first canonization on U.S. soil.

Francis canonized Junípero Serra during a Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in North America.

Serra was a Franciscan friar who marched north from Baja California with conquistadors from his native Spain, establishing nine of the 21 missions in what is now California. The pope announced in January that Serra would be canonized.

The decision was polarizing. Serra is revered by Catholics for his missionary work, but many Native Americans in California say he enslaved converts and contributed to the spread of disease that wiped out indigenous populations.

...During a visit to South America in July, Francis offered a broad apology for the sins, offenses and crimes committed by the church against indigenous peoples.

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