SOLVANG, Calif. - Old Mission Santa Inés announced plans to keep their St. Junípero Serra statue despite statewide calls for the figures to be torn down.
The mission released their statement in response to a petition calling for the statue's removal on change.org. The petition has rallied nearly 1,000 signatures and claims that, "Junipero Serra [was] a man who spent the majority of his life kidnapping, enslaving and stripping away the culture of indigenous peoples. "
The mission's statement reads in part:
"First and foremost, we want to express our concern and understanding of the pain expressed by some native peoples in California because of the crimes committed against their ancestors during colonial days. We acknowledge that Saint Junípero Serra’s involvement in Spanish colonial policy is problematic and the mission system was far from perfect, but there is no historical support for the attack on his character found in the wording of the petition and subsequent statements.
The statue of St. Junípero Serra at Mission Santa Inés is not a historical monument or a civic memorial. Rather it is an image of a saint set to encourage us to treat one another with love and respect as our Catholic faith teaches us."Old Mission Santa Inés
The statement went on to explain that the mission grounds where the statue is located are private property, meaning the city has no jurisdiction over its placement.
Based on the purpose of the statue and its history, Old Mission Santa Inés said they plan to keep the statue on mission property.
"We recognize the desire to remove statues that are on public property, but as a place of worship for thousands of Catholic faithful, we respectfully must affirm our First Amendment right to keep the statue of St. Junípero Serra safely on our mission grounds where it stands and where the faithful can visit and venerate it."Old Mission Santa Inés
This announcement comes shortly after Ventura City Council voted to remove two St. Junípero Serra statues from city property. The city explained plans to relocate the large bronze statue from the front of city hall to Mission San Buenaventura instead. The statue was removed early Thursday morning.
St. Junípero Serra is known as the Father of California's Spanish missions, having personally founded at least nine of the 21 missions statewide.
He worked to create the missions from 1767 until his death in 1784.
Serra became an official saint under Pope Francis in 2015, a motion that was considered controversial even then.