A statue of Blessed Junípero Serra could be removed from Washington, D.C.’s national Statuary Hall collection after a June 30 California state Assembly committee vote.
The soon-to-be-canonized saint’s statue has represented California at the Hall since 1934, but the friar’s effigy has been put in jeopardy by ongoing protests against the friar and by a long-standing petition to replace the statue with one of astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel to space.
The California Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee voted unanimously to send the resolution to the full assembly. The resolution to remove the statue had already passed the state senate with a 22-10 vote. If the resolution passes the California Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown would also need to also grant his approval.
In a bid to save Blessed Serra’s statue, a Spanish and English language website, Let’s Save Serra, is asking California residents to write to their legislators asking for Blessed Serra’s statue to remain.
“U.S. Hispanics need your support to maintain the presence of our first saint in the U.S. Capitol,” the website says.
Supporters may sign the petition at citizengo.org, which already has more than 46,000 signatures. Less than 4,000 signatures are needed to reach the petitioner’s goal of 50,000.
The statue has added significance with Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. where he will canonize Blessed Serra, making the friar America’s first Hispanic saint.
Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of the Catholic News Agency, called the petition to remove the statue an “insult to the pope.” Blessed Serra would be the “first saint to be named by a pope on American soil.”
“In a state that counts Hispanics as its largest ethnic group, California’s elected leaders are about to banish the first and one of the only two Hispanics from statuary hall,” Bermudez said in a May 22 essay at the Latino media website NewsTaco.