A two-car caravan California Indians and their supporters who oppose the beatification of Father Junipero Serra began a "spiritual pilgrimage" Saturday, tracing the steps of the 18th-Century Franciscan from Mission San Diego to Mission Carmel on the Monterey Peninsula, where Pope John Paul II is scheduled to visit Thursday.
"We are here to pay our respect to all Indian people who have suffered so much in the building of the missions," Anthony Miranda, tribal chairman of the 150-member Costanoan Band of Carmel Mission Indians, said in San Diego.
It had been expected that while in Monterey the Pope would announce Serra's beatification, the second of three steps to sainthood. Shortly before his departure for the United States, however, the Vatican announced that there was not enough time to complete the complex procedure.
Serra's critics charge that under the California mission system he founded, Indians were treated cruelly.
But Jerry Nieblas, a descendant of Juaneno Indians who is now on the staff of the Capistrano Mission, said Saturday: "I don't believe they were treated that harshly.