Supporters and detractors gather in Carmel for canonization

CARMEL, Calif. (KTVU) -- An estimated 400 people celebrated the pope's canonization of Father Junipero Serra at the Carmel Mission where Father Serra is buried. While it was a historic day for many Catholics, there was also a group who protested Father Serra becoming a saint.

With the bells at the Carmel Mission, the courtyard erupted with applause as Pope Francis bestowed Father Junipero Serra sainthood, the highest honor in the Catholic Church.

"For so many years we have been waiting for this event," said Suzette Ranillo of San Francisco. "It's a great feeling that this has happened finally."

Overwhelmed with emotion, hundreds of people viewed the Pope's first mass on U.S. soil in Washington D.C. on a Jumbotron screen. As the first Hispanic American saint, Father Serra is credited for building the California Mission System. Carmel Mission was his home base and final resting place. Neighboring Junipero Serra School closed for the day so students could watch the historic event.

"I just feel it's really special and I'm really lucky just to be here," said Junipero Serra School student Laura Vetter.

But, a few feet away, a dozen peaceful protestors gathered at the mission's cemetery.

"It's so sad that supposedly as a man of God that he doesn't care what thousands of California Indians are saying," said Louise Ramirez of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation.

Ramirez prayed for her ancestors. She said Father Serra is more of a sinner than a saint for his reported harsh treatment toward Native Americans. But not all Indians at the celebration felt the same way.

"Make him a saint or don't make him a saint," said Rudy Rosales, also of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation. "We don't care. To us, it doesn't really matter. As for as the atrocities, we heard and read they were done by the Spaniards and Spanish soldiers, not by Father Serra or the other priest."

In response, the Diocese of Monterey said they're working with local Native American tribes and brought back Father Serra's message.

"Serra crossed cultural lines and that's something we really need to try to do in our own day and age and respect all people, all their backgrounds, all their cultures and traditions," said Peter Crivello of the Diocese of Monterey.

Every year, the Carmel Mission receives tens of thousands of visitors. In light of the Father Serra's sainthood, they expect even more visitors.

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