Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano has removed a statue of Junipero Serra from public display to protect it from vandalism, a Diocese of Orange official confirmed.
“Out of precaution,” the church removed on Tuesday, June 23, the statue that was anchored to a pedestal out front of its entrance, diocese spokeswoman Tracey Kincaid said in an e-mail. The church, located next to the mission, was built in 1986 to serve the area’s growing Catholic community, which was getting too large for the mission’s Serra Chapel.
Serra, a Spanish priest, is credited with the founding of many of California’s missions, including Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1776. Serra was made a saint in 2015 by Pope Francis.
Activists in the last week have toppled multiple statues of Serra across California, including one near Los Angeles’s Union Station.
In the wake of George Floyd’s Memorial Day death in Minneapolis and the conversation about systemic racism it has sparked, advocates have called for the removal of statues of Confederate leaders, historical figures connected with slavery and, saying he contributed to the erasure of cultural identity and the death of many Native Americans, statues honoring Serra.
Diocese officials have said they stand behind a statement issued by the California Bishop’s Conference, which described Serra pressing the Spanish authorities to treat Native American communities better.
“If this process is to be truly effective as a remedy for racism,” the bishops said, “it must discern carefully the entire contribution that the historical figure in question made to American life, especially in advancing the rights of marginalized peoples.”
Mission San Juan Capistrano did not respond to questions about its plan for the Serra statue on its grounds.
Source: Orange County Register