Pope Francis headed a massive public mass in Washington D.C. on Wednesday afternoon, in which he gave saintly status to early Catholic Friar Junipero Serra, a controversial figure seen by Indigenous people as complicit in the genocide of Native communities.
“Junipero sought to protect Indigenous dignity,” Francis said in his canonization of Friar Junipero.
He defended the early Christian figure as a man, who “always knew how to live, putting the Evangelical life first so that his heart would not be numbed.”
But Norma Flores, an activist against the canonization of Junipero, told media that this act is a celebration of genocide because 90 percent of those he evangelized died in horrible conditions. “This is why we do not believe that this person deserves a spot in heaven together with other saints.”
Using the hashtag “Serra Is No Saint,” some on Twitter turned to social media to express their outrage over the cannonization and raise awareness on what they see as the sanctification of genocide and colonialism.
The Pope further repeated his earlier messages, urging Christians and others to reach out and help one another.
“It is necessary to feel that we need each other again, that we have a responsibility towards others in the world,” he said from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where the massive mass was held.
The pope invited his U.S. audience on Wednesday to take responsibility for the world, saying "the source of our joy is born from the desire to bring mercy."