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Pope Francis Speaks Up for the Earth and Indigenous Peoples So How Can He Canonize Serra?

06/25/2015 08:21 am ET | Updated Jun 25, 2016

I read Pope Francis' eco-encyclical with profound hope that it will effect a turning point in the global understanding of the impact of climate change on our Mother Earth. I pray that its words will turn the corrupted hearts and minds on Capitol Hill and all places of power toward respect and caring toward the natural world, now under such dire assault.

I was pleased to see also that the Pope's words urge an awakening of compassion not only toward the biosphere, but also to the poor and the indigenous peoples whose traditions so deeply honor creation. But as pleased as I was, I was also perplexed at the vast difference between the words of the Pope and his action in continuing plans to canonize Father Junipero Serra, who led the brutal missionization of the indigenous peoples of the West Coast of the Americas.

In the pope's new encyclical I found these passages which surely give the lie to any justification for Serra's canonization.

Number 145: "The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems. [Was not Serra's mission system a device to replace one ancient culture with another imperial one? Didn't it contribute to the disappearance of a culture? Why canonize him then?]

Number 146. In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. [Where then is the dialog with these communities regarding the canonization of Serra happening?]

...For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest here, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. [Then why canonize someone who made it a policy to take them from their land and had no respect for how they lived on the land and cared for it for centuries before the Europeans invaded?]

...Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture. [Before the mining companies pressured them to abandon their homelands and degrade their culture the church did the same-why canonize the man, Serra, who symbolizes this very act of degrading a culture in the name of a foreign ideology?]

Number 158. The principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters.....It demands before all else an appreciation of immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers. [Then why ignore the cries of the indigenous poor AGAINST the canonization of Serra?]

I think citing the pope's own words show the complete illogic of his effort to canonize Serra and we should tell him so!

Please add your signature to the ongoing MoveOn petition to the Pope against Serra's canonization.

In solidarity,

Matthew Fox