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SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - An archbishop has led a prayer service in reparation next to a saint's toppled statue.
On Saturday, June 27, Abp. Salvatore Cordileone led a gathering of faithful in the Rosary at a monument to St. Junípero Serra, eight days after the saint's statue was toppled by protesters in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and covered in graffiti.
Following the Rosary, the archbishop and the crowd recited a number of prayers and devotions. Cordileone also blessed the monument and those in attendance with holy water.
Previously, Abp. Cordileone condemned the destruction in a June 20 statement, writing:
What is happening to our society? 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. 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.
He referenced the city's namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, arguing, "But as Christ himself teaches, and St. Francis modeled, love and not rage is the only answer."
Archbishop Cordileone's statement also set the record straight on St. Junípero Serra's legacy, noting, "St. Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers."
Some activists say St. Junípero Serra was complicit in Spaniards' mistreatment of Native Americans.
"Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain," Abp. Cordileone continued, "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."
The roughly 100 activists who gathered in Golden Gate Park on June 19 also vandalized a number of other nearby statues, including those of Ulysses S. Grant and Francis Scott Key.
Grant was a Union general in the U.S. Civil War. During his time in office as America's president, Grant used martial law to crack down on the Ku Klux Klan.
Key penned the lyrics to the song known today as "The Star Spangled Banner," which has been the official, U.S. national anthem since 1938. But in recent years, the fact that Key owned slaves has caused some to call for removing his song as the national anthem.
Likewise, a monument honoring Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes was covered with graffiti. The author of Don Quixote, Cervantes lived as a slave for about five years. The now-vandalized monument to Cervantes features the two main characters in Don Quixote kneeling before a bust of the author.
But even those opposed to the existence of Confederate statues have decried the vandalism by activists and mobs.
For instance, James C. McCrery, II, an associate professor of architecture at the Catholic University of America, wrote in an article for conservative website The Federalist, saying, "They want Lee out, they want Abraham Lincoln out, they want George Washington out, and Christopher Columbus while they're at it. The mobs are neither able nor willing to make any distinction (even of centuries) between them."
Alongside crimes of vandalism by activists, many have called on government officials to legally remove statues and monuments.
In St. Louis, Missouri, there has been a push to take down a statue of the city's namesake — St. Louis IX, King of France — because of his connection to the Crusades. In New York City, a statue of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt is slated for removal.
Amid all this, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 26 calling for the protection of federal monuments, memorials and statues.