COMMENTARY: The Catholic Church and Genocide

Pope Francis recognizes a genocide, while two former Church leaders await canonization despite their complicity in acts of genocide.

During his Sunday Mass liturgy, Pope Francis demonstrated true leadership on an issue that some world leaders have refused to wade into. He declared that the atrocities committed against Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War One was the 20th century’s first genocide. April 24 marks the centenary of the Armenian Genocide.

But the pontiff’s pronouncement obfuscates the efforts by the Catholic Church to canonize two individuals who were complicit in acts of genocide.

Early this year, Francis put Father Junipero Serra, the founder of California’s mission system, on the road to sainthood, despite the fact that tens of thousands of indigenous peoples died as members of Father Serra’s fold—victims of forced labor, apostasy, or disease.

The late Pope Pius XII is also awaiting canonization. During the Holocaust, Pius sat silently on his papal throne while death-cries echoed from the gas chambers. He then turned a blind eye as the Church assisted Nazi war criminals in evading justice.

Preventing, recognizing, and confronting genocide is saintly, while the sacrilegious actions of both Father Junipero Serra and Pope Pius XII are truly sinful. 


Frank Pérez

I’m a lifelong resident of San Benito County. I reside in Hollister with my wife, Brenda. For over two decades, I've been a faculty member at San Benito High School, where I teach world history, Mexican-American history, and Ethnic Studies. I've been reporting for BenitoLink since 2015. My passion is delving deeper into the nuances of the local, historical record, while including lesser-known stories of our past. My hope is that county residents will have a greater appreciation for the diversity and complexity of San Benito County, realizing that its uniqueness depends upon our responsibility as its stewards.