Papal mass features reading in Native language from California

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Vincent Medina at Canonization Mass

A Native language that hasn't been widely used for decades was heard around the world as Pope Francis led a mass in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon.

Vincent Medina, a member of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, read a scripture in Chochenyo during the ceremony at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The California resident has been reviving the language of his ancestors, whom he said were punished for speaking at the Indian missions that were founded by Junipero Serra during the 1700s and 1800s.

“I am not in favor of canonization at all but I am doing the reading to honor my ancestors and to give us visibility," Medina told The San Francisco Chronicle, explaining his decision to participate in Serra's mass.

The Chochenyo and English versions of Isaiah 52:7-10. Image from Papal Mass Program / Catholic University of America

Chochenyo was once spoken widely in the Bay Area where Medina resides. It is related to Miwok, another language spoken in northern California.

The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe has led efforts to revive Chochenyo by relying on words still known in the community and on research conducted during the 1920s by the defunct Bureau of American Ethnology. Medina started learning the language as an adult.

Medina's reading at the mass lasted about a minute.

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