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126 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed

this way, they were helped to move from their nomadic past to a stable

domestic way of life. His extensive factual reports of his missionary actions

reveal a man who loved his people.

In 1987, when Pope John Paul II planned to beatify Fr. Serra, a protest

was raised by some Native Americans, who argued that the Spanish sol-

diers and missionaries tried to eradicate the language, culture, and iden-

tity of their people in California. The Pope met with Native American lead-

ers in Phoenix. He defended the legacy of the Franciscan missionaries.

He admitted that there had been some excesses. He also noted that

the weight of the evidence indicated that Fr. Serra had never been guilty of

mistreating the Native Americans. Actually, he had defended them from

harm. The Pope then went to the San Carlos mission (Monterey-Carmel)

and prayed at Fr. Serra’s grave. He beatified Fr. Serra on September 25,

1988, in St. Peter’s Square. He praised Fr. Serra as “an exemplary model

of the selfless evangelizer, a shining example of Christian virtue and the

missionary spirit.”

A statue of Blessed Junipero Serra is in the National Statuary Hall in

the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. A bronze statue of Serra

is mounted in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. His name has been

adopted by the lay organization known as the Serra Club, which does

much to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the United

States and other countries. Fr. Serra died in 1784.

Blessed Junipero Serra, now on his final step to sainthood, witnessed

to the holiness of the Church. As an extraordinary missionary, Serra is an

exceptional example of the Church’s apostolic calling to preach and wit-

ness the Gospel to all peoples. He thus exhibited in an extraordinary way

two of the four marks that characterize the Church.


It is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his

Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and it is he

who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

—CCC, no. 811