Monday, February 15, 2016

The Pope, Chiapas, and Father Serra

Pope Francis is on the move again, upsetting the Mexican establishment that would like to show off its fancy malls and building projects by visiting slums and speaking out against violence and corruption. And today, Monday, February 15, he will be in Chiapas, where thousands of Indians from surrounding villages, and even some from Guatemala, will come to hear the Pope deliver a mass, some of it recited in three Mayan dialects.

Pedro Arriaga, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas, told the press that "In Chiapas there is a situation of extreme poverty, of marginalization of the indigenous community, of social conflicts…. Of course we know that one visit by the pope won't resolve all that.... But we do hope for a profound spiritual experience with the people that will help us transform our social conscience."

History's first Latin American pope had already issued a sweeping apology for the Catholic Church's colonial-era crimes against the continent's indigenous peoples while in Bolivia last year. And now: “I ask you to show singular tenderness in the way you regard indigenous peoples and their fascinating but not infrequently decimated cultures," Francis told Mexico's bishops Saturday in a speech outlining their marching orders. "The indigenous people of Mexico still await true recognition of the richness of their contribution and the fruitfulness of their presence."

I applaud it all, but have to wonder further about the canonization of Father Serra that the Pope hurried on in his September visit to California. The indigenous people of California too “await true recognition of the… fruitfulness of their presence.” And, according to Alvin Josephy “the treatment of California Indians was as close to genocide as any tribal people had faced, or would face, on the North American continent."

Although the Pope is apologizing today in Mexico, and apologized profusely for the Church’s treatment of indigenous peoples in Bolivia last year, there has been no such apology to the Indians of California. Instead, there is the march toward canonization for Father Serra, the man who, in the mind of Rupert Costo, a Cahuilla Indian and the editor and publisher, in 1987, of The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide, was responsible for the missions—and the genocide.

Casinos have made some California Indians wealthy, but I have to think that there is not enough tribal strength in that state to stand up to church and government hierarchies. Or to make it through the filters of church, government, and wealth to the Pope, as appears to have been the case in Bolivia and Mexico. I don’t even know that the people and the government of California have ever owned up to the genocide--or “near genocide” to use Alvin’s words--of their indigenous population.

But I do believe that a copy of Costo’s book in the hands of this Pope might be cause for reconsideration. Does anyone have his address?

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Previous post re Father Serra and the Pope is at: http://josephylibrary.blogspot.com/2015/09/rupert-costo-pope-and-my-friend-ray.html

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