From Sophie to Serra: Pope Francis’ California ties

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sophie-cruz-331x219A 5-year-old girl from South Gate is getting international attention after she sneaked through a barricade yesterday and delivered a personal message about immigration to Pope Francis.

Sophie Cruz – an American citizen whose parents are undocumented immigrants – was initially held back by security as the Pope’s motorcade rolled through Washington, D.C. But Francis summoned the girl to the Popemobile, kissing her cheek and accepting a yellow T-shirt and a letter with a message supporting immigration reform in the U.S.

When reporters caught up to her later, Sophie said her parents came to the United States to make a better life. She said they should be treated with dignity and respect.

Cruz and her father, Raul, traveled to D.C. as part of a group that was organized by the immigration advocacy organization Hermandad Mexicana.

Raul Cruz says his daughter is fearful that he and his wife will be deported: “She lives it every day,” he told the Washington Post. “She sees family get separated, and we always tell her the truth when she asks why.”

Sophie and her father were expected to attend Pope Francis address to Congress today, at the invitation of Rep, Julia Brownley, a Democratic Congresswoman whose district included Oxnard and Ventura.

Meanwhile, one of the most important and divisive figures in California history is now a Roman Catholic saint.

During a mass in the U.S, capital, Pope Francis elevated 18th missionary Junipero Serra to sainthood. It was the first canonization ever on U.S soil.

Serra, as many of learned in 4th grade, was a Franciscan Friar who founded nine of California’s 21 missions, traveling north with Spanish conquistadors from Baja, California.

The decision to canonize Serra was criticized by Native Americans and others who say he enslaved converts and contributed to the spread of disease that wiped out thousands of Indians.SERRA

Francis said that Serra was a pious and kind-hearted man who actually protected native Californians from the worst abuses of the colonialists:

“Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” Francis said. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of so many people.”

During a visit to South America this summer, Francis offered a general apology for what he called the “grave sins” and crimes committed by the church against indigenous peoples.