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Abp. Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, CaliforniaPatristicNectarFilms/YouTube

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― The archbishop of San Francisco has led prayers of reparation and exorcism at the base of the profaned statue of St. Junípero Serra.

On June 27, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone led a group of Catholics to Golden Gate Park, where a statue of the great missionary was first unveiled on November 17, 1907. On June 19, 2020, the monument to St. Junípero Serra was toppled by a mob inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. In reparation for the vandalism, Cordileone led the small crowd assembled before the plinth in the rosary and performed a simple exorcism ceremony.

Cordileone said the statue of St. Junípero Serra had been “blasphemously torn down” and that an “act of sacrilege” had occurred where they prayed. He said the outrage was an “act of the Evil One” and that evil had “made itself present” at the site.

“This [sacrilege] is the activity of the Evil One, who wants to bring down the Church, who wants to bring down all Christian believers,” the archbishop said.

“So we have gathered together to pray to God in an act of reparation, asking God’s mercy upon us, upon our whole city, that we might turn our hearts back to Him,” he continued.

The reparation took the form of fasting and praying the rosary and the prayer for the intercession of Saint Michael, as well as blessing the ravaged plinth and site with holy water.

“We offer this prayer and bless the ground with holy water, so that God might purify it, sanctify it, so that we in return might be sanctified,” Cordileone said.

The statue of St. Junípero Serra had been “very much a part” of his life growing up, the archbishop revealed in an interview after the service. He confessed to feeling distress and pain over the ongoing violence against memorials of saints and said the crowd that had gathered for the prayers and exorcism was a “real comfort” to him.

“I was feeling great distress and a … deep wound in my soul when I [saw] these horrendous acts of blasphemy and disparaging of the memory of Serra, who was such a great hero, such a great defender of the indigenous people of this land.”

Cordileone asked that Catholics pray, fast, and learn about the history of St. Junípero Serra and the Catholic Church. He said Catholics should be “proud” of the history of their Church but also live in humility and pray that they, too, “with the grace of God” give the world goodness, beauty, and truth. 

Last week the Archbishop of San Francisco wrote a statement condemning the violence and vandalism that have swept the United States since the May 25 death of an intoxicated black man under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

“What is happening to our society?” Cordileone asked. 

“A renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting, and vandalism. The toppling and defacing of statues in Golden Gate Park, including that of St. Junípero Serra, have become the latest example,” he continued.

“The memorialization of historic figures merits an honest and fair discussion as to how and to whom such honor should be given. But here, there was no such rational discussion; it was mob rule, a troubling phenomenon that seems to be repeating itself throughout the country.”

In his statement, Cordileone defended the Franciscan St. Junípero Serra, who lived from 1713 to 1784, as an advocate of the poor and oppressed.

“St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers,” he wrote. 

“Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians. And then he walked back to California,” he continued.

“And lest there be any doubt, we have a physical reminder to this day: everywhere there is a presidio (soldiers’ barracks) associated with a mission in the chain of 21 missions that he founded, the presidio is miles away from the mission itself and the school.”

The archbishop pointed out that St. Junípero Serra had also offered the indigenous people of the region “the best thing he had: the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, which he and his fellow Franciscan friars did through education, health care, and training in the agrarian arts.”

The archbishop argued that “historical wrongs cannot be righted” by rewriting history. He also counseled a rational and loving “righteous indignation” in place of rage.

“Anger against injustice can be a healthy response when it is that righteous indignation which moves a society forward,” he wrote. “But as Christ himself teaches, and St. Francis modeled, love and not rage is the only answer.”

St. Junípero Serra was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015.