Archbishop Cordileone plans exorcism at church where St Serra statue was toppled

Archbishop Cordileone plans exorcism at church where St Serra statue was toppled The base of what was a St. Junipero Serra statue is seen in front of Mission San Raphael in San Rafael, Calif., after vandals tore down the statue. Photo: CNS

San Francisco’s archbishop plans to conduct an exorcism on October 17 at the site of a now-toppled statue of St Junipero Serra at St Rafael Mission Church in San Rafael.

Just the saint’s feet are left after the statue on church property was vandalised and desecrated on October 12 by what Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone described as a “small, violent mob”, who he hopes will be prosecuted for attacking the statue.

The vandalism took place on Columbus Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day as the holiday is now called in some cities and states, including California – during what was at first a peaceful protest held at St Rafael Mission Church, the archbishop said. But then some participants became violent and destroyed the statue.

“Once again, this time at St Raphael Parish, a statue of St Junipero Serra was mindlessly defaced and toppled by a small, violent mob,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a statement. “This kind of behaviour has no place in any civilised society.”

He said the police arrested five “of the perpetrators,” but “what happens next is crucial.”


“If these are treated as small property crimes, it misses the point: The symbols of our Faith are now under attack not only on public property, but now on our own property and even inside of our churches,” he said. “We cannot allow a small unelected group of lawbreakers to decide what sacred symbols we Catholics or other believers may display and use to foster our faith. This must stop.”

“There is no question that the indigenous peoples of our continent suffered under Europeans who came here and their descendants, especially after the mission era ended and California entered into the US,” Archbishop Cordileone added. “But Father Serra is the wrong symbol of those who wish to address or redress this grievance.”

The desecration of these statues is part of a wave of attacks on Catholic churches and statues around the US in the past several months.